On Monday, motorists driving through Highway 344’s school zone in Kanesatake got quite a surprise when they came face to face with a “living radar.”
The speeding campaign was organized by the Surete du Quebec (SQ) in collaboration with Ratihén:te High School and École secondaire d’Oka (ESO).
“I decided to create a speed prevention campaign for both schools since they are located in school zones where speeding has been a problem,” said SQ agent Catherine Boyer.
The concept behind a “living radar” is basically having a school-age child carry a backpack equipped with a radar and a panel displaying the motorists’ speed.
Boyer explained that she was inspired by the Laval Police, who developed the concept for their community.
“What a powerful message, right? To have an actual kid tell you that you are driving too fast for a school zone,” said Liza McLaughlin, the special education technician at the high school.
“Here, people are speeding all the time in the school zone. Since we had the same problem, we joined forces and decided to make this a common battle to educate and prevent speeding in school zones.”
McLaughlin said that Boyer has been working on different projects in an effort to reconcile both communities.
“Because of the history of the Oka Crisis. Because the mayor of Oka (Pascal Quevillon) says a lot of racist stuff openly, and he keeps being re-elected,” said the special education technician.
“It shows that the village of Oka and our community are not there yet. The adults are not there yet because there is a lot of tension. There is a lot of history of trauma between both communities.”
On the morning of the operation, McLaughlin and Wenhni’tí:io Will Gareau, who works at the Kanesatake Health Center, made signs in Kanien’kéha that were then translated into English and French.
Sixty students from both schools participated in the campaign. The event started with an opening ceremony followed by an introduction to the territory by Gareau, in which he explained the importance of the Ohèn:ton Karihwatéhkwen.
“Then we had Brenda Etienne that did the Thanksgiving Address in Kanien’kéha in front of both schools to show them the way that we do things here,” explained McLaughlin.
Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) chief Valerie Bonspille gave a welcoming speech. Other chiefs were also present during the campaign.
“We wanted the kids to have an ice breaker meeting before the campaign, so last week, we hosted a lunch here. We did all sorts of little activities with them, little games, and we had pizza together,” she said.
“A bunch of the kids actually bonded together and exchanged their social media and numbers. So, they were very excited to host the campaign yesterday.”
François Gervais, the animator at ESO, said that the experience was enriching for his students. “It felt like we were starting a new chapter for both communities where the word reconciliation starts making sense,” said Gervais.
“For me, change is possible, particularly through the youth. It was all very natural, the bonds that were made. It was very touching to see.”
He said that he hopes this is only the beginning in terms of building a meaningful relationship between both communities.
“The students were so excited! After the operation, they were so hyper! They had a blast. I think I saw some authentic curiosity for one another. Some real openness and genuine interest,” said McLaughlin.
Marisela Amador, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door