KAHNAWAKE MOHAWK TERRITORY- Mohawks of Kahnawake, just outside Montreal, are preparing for a referendum on whether to exhume and remove from their community the remains of a priest alleged to have committed sexual abuse.
After the discovery last summer of what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., several Kahnawake residents came forward with allegations that Rev.Leon Lajoie had abused them.
Lajoie, a Jesuit assigned to Kahnawake from 1961 to 1990, was buried next to St. Francis Xavier Mission Church in Kahnawake in 1999.
Tonya Perron, one of the Mohawk Council’s elected chiefs, said in an interview Tuesday the March 25-26 vote is necessary because the former council agreed to the burial, but without seeking community members’ consent.
Melissa Montour, the spokesperson for the group demanding the exhumation, criticized the council today, saying it should just approve the exhumation instead of holding a vote that is turning the matter into a political issue at the expense of sexual abuse survivors.
The Jesuits of Canada, who expect to conclude their investigation into the sexual allegations on Friday, said in a statement Tuesday they will respect Kahnawake’s decision, regardless of the investigation’s outcome, and will pay for all related costs of a potential exhumation and reburial outside the community.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 23, 2022.