Developer offers disputed Oka land to Kanesatake Mohawks as ecological gift

MONTREAL- A Quebec land developer says he’s signed an agreement with the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake to return a parcel of forest that was central to the Oka crisis that began 29 years ago today.

Gregoire Gollin says in the spirit of reconciliation, he plans to cede 60 hectares of forest known as The Pines to the local council as an ecological gift through a federal government program.

Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and First Nations activist Brad Laroque standing face to face in Oka, Que., on Sept. 1, 1990 (The Canadian Press Shaney Komulainen)

He says discussions had been ongoing for two years with Kanesatake officials and he’s hopeful it can be concluded quickly and perhaps serve as an example to landowners elsewhere in Canada in similar situations.

The crisis began July 11, 1990, when gunfire between provincial police and Aboriginals defending a small stand of pine trees resulted in the death of officer Marcel Lemay and sparked a 78-day showdown.

At the end of it, a deal was struck to bring down the barricades in exchange for cancelling the expansion of a golf course.

Nearly three decades later, the disputed territory remains a long-standing, unsettled issue and Ellen Gabriel, a well-known Mohawk activist, says while it’s a noble gesture on the part of Gollin, it doesn’t necessarily go far enough.

She notes that as an ecological gift, there will be strings attached to the land transfer and adds the local Mohawk council hasn’t shared details of the agreement with the community.

Meanwhile, the nearby town of Oka will hold a meeting next week to discuss the land transfer, according to a Facebook message by the mayor last week.

 

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