Indigenous

Oka resolutions have no impact on Kanesatake, says Mohawk community's grand chief

Kanesatake's grand chief says three resolutions passed by the municipal council in neighbouring Oka, Que., for a slew of requests to the federal and provincial governments regarding the Mohawk community will have "little to no impact."

'We make our own decisions, and it's not up to him whether the RCMP come in here,' says Serge Simon

Tensions in the area have mounted over a private developer's plan to return land to the Mohawks of Kanesatake and the reaction by the neighbouring municipality of Oka. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Kanesatake's grand chief says three resolutions passed by the municipal council in neighbouring Oka, Que., for a slew of requests to the federal and provincial governments regarding the Mohawk community will have "little to no impact."

Oka's resolutions, passed Tuesday night, called on the federal government to impose a moratorium on a proposed transfer of lands to Kanesatake. Mayor Pascal Quevillon also said an RCMP detachment is needed to police the Mohawk community in order to restore peace and respect for the law when it comes to the Mohawk cannabis industry.

"I could pass a resolution at my council demanding that it snow in the middle of July, but it isn't going to make it happen," said Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon. 

"We make our own decisions, and it's not up to him whether the RCMP come in here."

In June, Quebec land developer Grégoire Gollin offered to transfer 60 hectares of land to Kanesatake through a federal Ecological Gifts program, as well as to sell another 150 hectares to the federal government to help make progress with an ongoing land claim.

Oka Mayor Pascale Quevillon told media he wanted to be consulted on the land transfer, and that he was concerned that his municipality would become "surrounded" by Mohawk territory plagued with illegal dumps, cannabis and cigarette merchants and contaminated water.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says that he wants an apology from the mayor of Oka if the two are going to meet. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

There are currently about 20 cannabis dispensaries operating in Kanesatake. Simon is no fan of them, but he said decisions about the industry are up to the community. 

He said efforts are being made to regulate the industry through an internal consultation process. His council also passed a resolution last month requiring dispensaries to be at least 500 metres away from any public building. It has yet to be enforced. 

"The right to self-determination has always been our inherent right," said Simon.

"We're going to exercise that right whether Mayor Quevillon agrees with it or not."

Simon said he does want the community to have its own policing service, but the RCMP would only cause more problems.

Clifton Nicholas agrees. He opened Kanesatake's first cannabis dispensary last year, prior to federal legalization. 

Clifton Nicholas is the owner of the Green Devil, one of Kanesatake's cannabis dispensaries. (Clifton Nicholas)

"More police in this community isn't going to solve anything," said Nicholas.

Nicholas said the community's cannabis industry is an internal matter, and one that also requires more effort from council. He's not the only one. According to minutes from a community meeting that took place in Kanesatake on Tuesday, the "mismanagement" of cannabis is one of many issues on which community members feel a lack of confidence in the council.

Federal government says it is working with both communities

Nicholas said he sees the need for regulations but said people outside of Kanesatake need to stop criminalizing the industry.

"There's a failure on the part of council — a lack of will to do anything, to create a set of rules. We don't need a police force to handle that," said Nicholas.

"Let's remove the criminal idea out of cannabis."

He said the industry has become an important source of economic development and job creation since the dispensaries opened after federal legalization. 

The office of the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada would not comment specifically about Oka's resolutions, but said it is working collaboratively with the Mohawk Council and Oka, and "look forward to continuing these discussions to ensure that there is a positive and respectful relationship between the communities."

"Our government is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Reconciliation is not only an Indigenous issue — it is a Canadian imperative and one that will involve all of us," a statement to CBC News read.

"Our work also includes our deep commitment to the settlement of the historical land claim of the Kanesatakehró:non, the people of Kanesatake, and to resolving past wrongs."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawà:ke, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.

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