Kanesatake’s land dispute received new support from the Quebec Green Party, as the politicalleader visited the development site.
Party leader Alex Tyrrell came down on Monday to meet with representatives of the People of the Longhouse, activists and land defenders Ellen Gabriel, Al Harrington and Teiawenniserate Tomlinson.
“There is a lot of long-standing mistrust towards this land claim and I’d like to call all parties to have a dialogue,” said Tyrrell, who was elected as the Quebec Green Party leader in 2013.
In an interview with The Eastern Door, Tyrrell said he believes People of the Longhouse should be respected, as their voices are essential when it comes to land claims. He explained that he has been following Indigenous issues in Quebec for quite some time now and has been planning the visit with Harrington for the past few weeks. They met back in 2019 when Harrington was on his hunger-strike, raising awareness for this same dispute.
The 32-year-old politician believes that it’s not only important to talk about issues like this, but to be on the ground and hear from people that lives are directly affected.
“I think we haven’t done enough of that,” he said.
On Monday, he visited the development site along the edge of the Pines. Earlier in August, land defenders erected a campsite at this location, demanding a halt on all development. It was recently dismantled by the municipality of Oka after a suspicious fire occurred at the latest house being built right next to the campsite, which caused tension within the neighbourhood.
Tyrrell said he wanted to learn more about the ongoing land dispute on-site rather than just read about it.
“It’s always nice to see people who can see beyond the colonial construct and attempt to understand the plight of the Kanien'kehá:ka people,” said Tomlinson.
Tomlinson agreed to meet the Green Party leader, but said he personally remains skeptical towards the Canadian political sphere.
“It’s very difficult to overlook centuries of bad faith,” he explained.
One of the land defenders’ criticisms towards the land claim has been the lack of transparency from the government and the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK), but also from land developer Grégoire Gollin.
In June 2019, grand chief Serge Otsi Simon had signed an agreement with Gollin, in which the latter committed to transferring more than 60 hectares as a gift to the community. The proposition is still conditional to the community’s consent.
Gabriel repeatedly vocalized her fear that the land transfer proposed by Gollin is only another means to develop on Kanesatake’s territory, and these lands are not his to give away.
“Indigenous people should be able to grow their communities and have enough land to live on,” said Tyrrell, agreeing with the land defender’s concerns.
While he believes it’s up to everybody to play a part in correcting ongoing injustice towards Indigenous people, Tyrrell said he also doesn’t want to pretend to represent them.
“I try to amplify Indigenous voices by being present and bringing as much visibility as I can,” he said.
Tyrrell issued a statement on Thursday calling upon the federal government, as well as ministers Marc Miller and Caroline Bennett to “act in good faith by accepting the demands of the Longhouse and the people of Kanehsatà:ke.”
“It’s time for them to live up to their commitments through actions, not words,” he said.
Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door