Tensions flare in Oka over housing development on disputed land
Grand Chief of Kanesatake Mohawks says he 'sure as hell hopes' situation doesn't lead to another Oka Crisis
Mohawk activist Ellen Gabriel and others squared off Wednesday against Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon at the site of a new housing development where hydro poles were recently installed and pine trees cleared.
The Domaines des Collines D'Oka project in Oka, about 60 kilometres northwest of Montreal, is on land which is part of the Kanesatake Mohawks' decades-old unresolved land claim.
"Your only solution is to continue to get more money for development, for your taxes," Gabriel said to Quevillon. "Our solution is to stop this."
Quevillon, however, said the development is out of his hands.
"I can't change this," he told those gathered, adding the municipality would be sued if it tried to stop the project.
The builder of the Domaines des Collines D'Oka said the development is already three-quarters finished.
Another 20 homes are planned for the disputed land, according to Quevillon.
'Another Oka Crisis in the making?'
In an interview with CBC News, Serge Simon, the grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, worries the situation could escalate if nothing is done.
"Is there another Oka Crisis in the making? I sure as hell hope not," he said, referring to the 1990 standoff between Mohawks, provincial police and eventually the Canadian army sparked by a golf course development on disputed land.
Quevillon said the developer of Collines D'Oka had reached an agreement with the Mohawk council back in 2003, but Simon said there are no formal agreements on file.
"It was the municipal government that gave the permits out to his man, and they had the responsibility, not the developer," Simon said.
Simon said he contacted federal land claim negotiators about the dispute this morning.
In the meantime, he wants a moratorium placed on the housing development.
With files from Matt D'Amours