Events com­mem­o­rate Oka an­niver­sary

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Twenty-five years af­ter the be­gin­ning of the vi­o­lent 78-day stand­off be­tween Que­bec Mo­hawks and Cana­dian sol­diers, the com­mu­nity of Kane­sa­take has not for­got­ten the Oka cri­sis or the rea­sons be­hind it.

Dozens of res­i­dents and other com­mu­nity mem­bers marched on Satur­day along a tree lined dirt road, a path the Mo­hawks bar­ri­caded in 1990 to protest the pro­posed ex­pan­sion of a golf course on what Mo­hawk lead­ers said was their land.

It was one of nu­mer­ous events held to com­mem­o­rate the an­niver­sary of a cri­sis that be­gan on July 11, 1990 when a shootout be­tween Mo­hawks and pro­vin­cial po­lice re­sulted in the death of Cpl. Mar­cel Lemay in the town of Oka, about 45 min­utes north-west of Mon­treal. The source of the bullet has never been dis­cov­ered.

Satur­day's march wound its way along the side of the golf course, past stop signs that Mo­hawk marchers said were the site of army road­blocks, where roughly 800 Cana­dian forces were called in af­ter Lemay's shoot­ing to en­cir­cle the com­mu­nity with barbed wire.

The cri­sis ended af­ter 78 days of ne­go­ti­a­tions af­ter both sides struck a deal: the bar­ri­cades made of dirt and man­gled po­lice ve­hi­cles were to come down in re­turn for the can­cel­la­tion of the golf course ex­pan­sion.

John Cree, one of the Mo­hawks lead­ing the march, re­minded the as­sem­bled peo­ple that the dis­puted ter­ri­tory re­mains un­ceded.

He said much of the sur­round­ing land, which the Mo­hawks claim, is un­der threat of de­vel­op­ment.

“That's why we're march­ing to­day,” he said. “Not to show off but to say 'Hey, you owe us.' This is our land. We don't have to claim it. You don't have to claim some­thing that's yours.”

Many of the other speak­ers fo­cused on con­cil­i­a­tion and heal­ing.

Francine Lemay, the sis­ter of the slain po­lice of­fi­cer, said the cri­sis led her to even­tu­ally dis­cov­er­ing the history of the Mo­hawks and the in­jus­tices they have suf­fered.

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