A Facebook post written by a well-known Mohawk activist has ignited worries of another land dispute in Oka, Que.
Ellen Gabriel wrote Thursday that the city of Oka had accepted a 400-home development project on land the Mohawk community claims is theirs.
But the mayor of Oka insists that’s not true.
“All we did is update our municipal regulations,” Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon said. “But in regards to the land in question, we are authorized to build on it, it’s been authorized since ‘84.”
The mayor said that the municipal bylaw resurfaced at a town meeting Thursday night.
“What Ms. Gabriel did, was she lit the fire for absolutely no reason,” Quevillon said. “All this does is divide the population.”
But the population seems to already be divided.
Kanesatake grand chief Serge Simon said the land does not belong to Oka.
“As grand chief, do you think I’m going to recognize his right to develop on lands I’m claiming? No.”
The debate is all too familiar, after July 1990’s Oka Crisis.
A group of Mohawks and the town of Oka were embroiled in a land dispute that shook the entire country.
The 78-day standoff was sparked when police moved in to clear Mohawk protesters who were defending disputed land.
The proposed expansion of a golf course and a condominium development was at the heart of the crisis.
Simon insists the Oka Crisis isn’t something he wants to see again.
“We took the whole brunt of that whole thing,” he said. “Even 20 years after the crisis was over, our community was completely torn apart.”
Oka’s mayor said there are currently no plans to develop the land. But if they ever plan to do so, they will consult the Mohawk community.
“We have to start talking with our neighbours,” Simon said. “We’re both in this area and we’re going to have to work together and live in peace.”
He said if plans to build on the land ever go forward, he’ll turn to the courts.