Good scare over Kanesatake

·4 min read

Kanehsata’kehró:non wereleft scratching their heads as anunidentified object flew over the community, scanning the territory with a green light.

On Thursday, October 29, an airplane mandated by the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) was mapping the Lake of Two Mountains using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology.

According to CMM, the operation served to gather information for measures to prepare for future flooding. LiDAR technology measures and produces 3D information for the shape and surface characteristics of the Earth.

Yet, Kanesatake wasn’t made aware of the operation, causing confusion.

Patricia Kahentanoron Gabriel shared videos of the plane flying over her house.

“At first we weren’t even sure what it was,” said Gabriel. “Obviously a plane or drone of some sort, but what they were doing or looking for was a total mystery.”

Gabriel said that when she tried to upload the video, she received a message saying it was “unavailable” due to technical errors. She then was able to post it on the Kanesatake Facebook community page. She also reported that her phone shut down after recording, an incident experienced by others.

The Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) issued a statement the day after after receiving multiple reports of the event. MCK grand chief Serge Otsi Simon said that CMM apologized profusely for not reaching out.

“Next time, we might not be so lucky and somebody might take a shot at the plane,” said Simon, adding that he warned CMM about the necessity to properly consult for future actions.

The Eastern Door sat down - virtually - with CMM project director Cedric Marceau, and CMM lawyer and secretary Tim Seah.

TED: Can you explain what the operation consisted of exactly?

Marceau: We are mandated by the Quebec government to understand the behaviour of streams and bodies of water in the metropolitan area of Montreal, to establish the sectors at risk of future flooding. We’re looking to collect and scan information to use for future cartography of those areas.

TED: The green light scanning around the territory caused a lot of stress, can you explain what technology was used?

Marceau: LiDAR is a technology that wasn’t available 10-15 years ago. It now allows us to scan a territory with a lot of precision, every centimeter of elements that modify and affect the land. We’ve been able for the past five years to scan deeper into bodies of water. It collects information on the water flow, its depth and with that, we are able to determine potential scenarios. Let’s say next week, we are supposed to receive 100 CM of rain. With the information collected, we are able to calculate what will be the effect of such rain on the bodies of water and simulate how high they will rise to prevent citizens from potential flooding.

TED: Was it ever used over Kanesatake before?

Marceau: No, the technology is too recent, we had never done it over the metropolitan area. But in previous years, we took aerial photographs for the same reason. The difference is that with LiDAR, the plane, a twin-engine CESSNA, had to fly lower for more precision.

TED: Why was it done at night and without prior notice?

Marceau: The aerial metropolitan space is very busy. Since we have to fly lower with LiDAR and along bodies of water, we are taking unusual flight routes and it can be complicated to obtain authorization from Transport Canada. Doing it at night makes it easier.

Seah: Prior to Thursday, we also didn’t know that the laser was visible at night for people on the ground. We thought it was going to be invisible because, during the day, nobody can see it. If we would have known, we would have informed the community that an airplane was going to fly over, that it wasn’t dangerous at all and that it wasn’t aliens!

TED: If you were mapping the lake to prevent flooding, then why was the plane seen flying all around the community?

Seah: The topography of the flooding areas not only includes the bodies of water, but also the shores where people live, where the water can go up to. People also saw the plane deeper in the territory because it had to turn away to be able to provide a wider frame of the land.

TED: How can you explain cellphones being blocked or shut down? Can LiDAR do this?

Marceau: We were surprised. It might have been a coincidence. This was the first time we heard of this.

TED: Will the information be used for next flooding season?

Marceau: The information won’t be available until 2022. We need to analyze the data collected first. LiDAR compiles millions of little dots on the land that needs to be evaluated and it takes more than six months to validate the information.

Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door