Events commemorate Oka anniversary
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.