Tensions continue between Kanesatake and Oka over The Pines

CTV Montreal Staff
Published Friday, July 19, 2019 8:33PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 19, 2019 8:37PM EDT

The tension continues to simmer between Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon and Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon after incendiary comments the mayor made Thursday.

“Everything I said was the truth,” the mayor said. “It’s what happens in Kanesatake today. I haven’t invented it.”

After private developer Gregoire Gollin and Simon signed an agreement to transfer 60 hectares of land in The Pines adjacent to Kanesatake in exchange for Gollin’s right to develop on other lands in Oka undisturbed, the mayor said he was caught off guard.

Quevillon complained at a community meeting Wednesday that his town will be surrounded by cannabis dispensaries, smoke shops and dump sites if the town is not consulted about the use of land.

Simon demanded an apology for the remarks reminding the mayor of how a previous mayor made similar comments 29 years ago that led to a 78-day standoff in the same pines during the Oka Crisis.

“There’s always been an underlying tension,” Simon said Thursday. “There’s always been the ghost of 1990 and a mistrust of each other.”

The mayor will not apologize despite criticism from many including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said the comments “lacked the necessary respect and understanding that is key to true reconciliation.”

Quenvillon said Thursday he’s not trying to throw oil on the fire, but that he wants to draw attention to the issues including an internal power struggle in the Mohawk community, and that he had to be blunt to get the federal and provincial governments to meet with him after waiting for three years.

A meeting, Quenvillon said, is being arranged in the coming weeks with the two governments.

Simon said Thursday a meeting between the neighbouring communities will not happen until the mayor apologizes for his ignorant words.

“It’s irresponsible of him knowing damn well what happened and how it happened (in 1990) and he’s following in the same footsteps,” Simon said. “He’s knowingly fomenting a crisis.”

Simon told CTV by phone earlier in the day that his view has not changed, and the Oka mayor needs to be more conciliatory if any progress is to be made.