The municipality of Oka, Que., will buy a disputed piece of land not far from the property that sparked a lengthy standoff 20 years ago, the mayor said Monday.


The Mohawk community put up this sign at the disputed Oka, Que., site after a developer announced plans to build three houses. ((CBC))

Mayor Richard Lalone said Oka councillors voted to buy the land as a goodwill gesture, which he hopes will help keep peace in the area.

The municipality will pay Norfolk Financial $300,000 for 1.2 hectares — well below the $500,000 original asking price. The real-estate group had planned to build three homes on it, sparking outrage last summer in the Mohawk community, which claimed ownership of the land.

The municipality has no plans to develop the land.

"From the beginning, council has said their main interest in this was maintaining public security," Lalonde was quoted as saying in the Montreal Gazette on Tuesday. "Why would we endorse a project on land where the federal government is in negotiations with the aboriginal community? Why start a problem when the council had the power to avert it?"

The land became the centre of a heated standoff last August after Norfolk Financial announced its development plans. Norfolk's Richard Ducharme tried to get onto the land to cut down trees, but Mohawks from Kanesatake First Nation would not allow it.

The land in question is in the Pines area, just across the road from where the Oka Crisis started in 1990. The earlier dispute lasted 78 days and began after Oka council approved plans to bulldoze forestland — which the Mohawks claimed was sacred ground — to expand the local golf course.

The standoff turned deadly on July 11, 1990, after 31-year-old Quebec police Cpl. Marcel Lemay was shot and killed in a battle between police and Mohawk rebels. It ended on Sept. 26 that year, when Mohawk warriors put down their weapons.