'Not one more inch': Traditional group in Kahnawake block construction site near bridge

Members of the traditional government in Kahnawake - the 207 Longhouse - blocked access to a construction site demanding that no further encroachment on their land take place.

Construction work was set to begin this morning at the foot of the Mercier Bridge in the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake, on the South Shore of Montreal.

However, a group of community members affiliated with the traditional Mohawk government - the 207 Longhouse - blocked access to the site.

"Not one more inch will be given up," said Joe Deom of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake. "This encroaches on our territory. It's a small area, but we're making a point here."

At issue is a tiny piece of land where the federal corporation operating the Mercier Bridge wants to build an electrical substation needed to modernize the infrastructure. The location of the work is outside of the bridge's path.

The protesters in Kahnawake are taking up a fight that other Indigenous communities have in recent years determined to stop any further encroachment on their land.

The bridge corporation said it already negotiated and received approval for the project from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK), which the longhouse does not recognize as the governing body on the territory.

"We started negotiating this in May 2019, with the MCK," said Nathalie Lessard from the Jacques-Cartier-Champlain-Bridge Corporation (JCCBI). "Plans were submitted, commented, and agreed upon, and approved last February 2021. This is how we do things every time, so we were ready to go, but the situation was a little surprising this morning."

Other construction work on the bridge is still ongoing with most of it being carried out by the local Mohawk Bridge Consortium.

The traditionalists from the longhouse say they'll continue blocking the site until their voice is heard at the table.  

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