JOHN MAHONEY / Mont
A convoy of about 100 vehicles carrying Kahnawake residents — many of them sporting Mohawk flags — crossed the Mercier Bridge into LaSalle and back Saturday morning as part of a “rolling blockade” to commemorate the event.
Hours later, a second caravan — this time, carrying Kanesatake residents — took over Route 344 northwest of Montreal though a new development in an area used by Mohawk farmers for generations. Many onlookers stood on their front porch and waved.
Members of the traditional longhouse organized the convoys to commemorate the watershed event — a 78-day standoff between Quebec Mohawks and Canadian soldiers over the proposed expansion of a golf course in Oka.
Three decades later, the impasse over land rights remains unresolved — despite Trudeau’s numerous pledges to work toward reconciliation and foster a “nation-to-nation” dialogue with Indigenous communities.
“The summer of 1990 serves as a reminder that the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) are willing to defend their land and protect their people, by any means necessary,” Joe Deom, a spokesperson for the Kahnawake longhouse, told a small gathering in the village Saturday. “The same holds true, 30 years later.”
Organizers chose to hold rolling blockades instead of marches because of the coronavirus pandemic and the contamination risks that would have resulted from demonstrators being in close proximity to each other, Gabriel told reporters.
“We are fighting for our land.”
Gazan was more blunt.
“There will never be reconciliation in Canada in the absence of justice,” she said. “The people of Kanesatake have waited for over 300 years for this justice, and their justice continues to be infringed upon. It is time that this longstanding land dispute be resolved, that it gets the attention that it deserves from the current federal government to act now. The people of the longhouse have waited long enough for justice.”
Asked what it would take for reconciliation to begin, Gabriel answered: “Land back. It’s going to be an uncomfortable discussion, but when are we going to have it?”
By Frédéric Tomesco Christopher Curtis of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report firstname.lastname@example.org