Kanesatake Longhouse pushes Trudeau to take action on land claims

Mohawk flags are placed at the border of the Kanasatake Mohawk territory and the town of Oka Friday, July 19, 2019 in Oka, Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

Members of the Kanesatake Longhouse presented a list of demands to the federal government Wednesday.

At the top of the list is land development after a controversial gift from a local developer who is willing to give 60 hectares of land, including the area known as the Pines, to Kanesetake.

That same land was the focus of the Oka crisis.

"Mr. [Gregoire] Gollin was sold this land from private individuals who obtained it after the 1990 Oka Crisis. So they knew this was disputed land," said Gabriel, who was a spokesperson for Kanesetake during the crisis.

The traditional Longhouse wants to reject the gift because it says there are too many strings attached for territory they already consider to be theirs.

The federal government usually deals only with band councils, and does not necessarily recognize the Longhouse and its self-governing structure.

Kanesetake's band council is still discussing the proposition and with a federal election looming the Longhouse is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to come through on old promises.

"He promised to make us his first priority in his relationships and yet he ignored us. Kanesateke should have been an example of reconciliation," said Gabriel.

The Longhouse's calls for action were echoed by the Mohawks of Kahnawake on Montreal's south shore.

"Ever since 1990 where the federal government had an opportunity to resolve a lot of these issues, we still have these outstanding issues," said Joe Deom, a sub-chief in Kahnawake.

At an event in Montreal on Wednesday Trudeau did not take any questions.

The Longhouse says Ottawa has dragged its feet on these land claims for years.

"It's not up to Canada to decide what our rights are to our homelands. It's not their right to do so," said Gabriel.

The members of the Kanesatake Longhouse are giving Trudeau one week to respond to their demands.

If he does not, they promise more action which they say will be entirely peaceful.