Home News Dump trucks confronted in Kanesatake

Dump trucks confronted in Kanesatake

Courtesy Shelby Karonianoron McComber

Frustrated by a constant stream of dump trucks coming into the community to unload landfill, a handful of Kanehsata’kehró:non sprung into action on Wednesday afternoon to stop vehicles from entering Ahsennénhson near the baseball diamond.

“We fought hard in 1990 to protect this land, and our own people are actually destroying it,” said Ellen Gabriel, one of around 10 community members to answer a call for help launched by Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) chief Brant Etienne.

“Look, everybody else that went there – I was not the only one – you want to know what the hell’s going on. We have no control over our community. Our rights are being trampled on by people who think just because they have money they can do this stuff,” said Gabriel.

“The white people are still taking our land, and we’re fighting amongst ourselves over stupid things, about egos.”

While at least some of the trucks possess papers assuring the safety of the landfill, Gabriel believes there is no reason to trust this paperwork when there are no

reported local inspections, especially given the history of toxic dumping in the community.

“It just means to me that we have lost those traditional values of protecting the land for the faces not yet born,” she said.

In recent years Kanesatake has made countrywide headlines because of the extent of contamination at G&R Recycling, which is still plaguing residents. Projections for the cleanup are as high as $100 million.

While it is believed there are a number of locations where landfill is being dumped, mostly at Oka letter lands on the Lake of Two Mountains, these particular loads were seemingly being brought in by Gary Gabriel, the co-owner of the toxic G&R Recycling site from which the community is still reeling.

Gary Gabriel declined to comment for this article.

The original G&R Recycling site, still unremediated, was on Ahsennénhson, not far from the land where this landfill was being brought in.

“That one’s pretty bad too. That’s going to be part of the next phase,” said MCK grand chief Victor Bonspille in an interview with The Eastern Door in October, adding the site has been brought to the attention of the federal government and that it was necessary to remediate the main location first, a venture that has completely stalled.

Among the community members present on Wednesday were four MCK chiefs, including Etienne, who posted a callout on his personal Facebook page.

He said he was the first chief to respond when Kanesatake Perimeter Security (KPS) got involved after a truck was reportedly seen on Ste. Germaine.

“When we heard this, when KPS heard this, the decision was made to set up, just like during the pandemic, a checkpoint at the ecocentre,” he said.

Etienne has become increasingly upset with what he considers a flagrant disregard of a moratorium on dumping established in 2016.

In a recording obtained by The Eastern Door, Etienne was informed by Gary that he was no longer in office – a reference to an oft-repeated refrain by Bonspille targeting Etienne and four other chiefs that is not established by the Custom Electoral Code and has not been validated by any outside body. Bonspille did not reply to a request for comment.

“I’m taking the paper to Environment, and you’re not even a chief anymore, you were voted out twice by the people, so you’ve got nothing to say,” Gary said.

At another point captured on video showing a related confrontation, Etienne was carried dozens of feet on the front of a dump truck as it continued driving through him.

“I don’t know if there’s any fixing this,” said Etienne. “Somebody came up to me and said it was crazy that I got in the middle of the road to stop it. The truck could have run over me. But isn’t it crazy that everything that sustained our people for thousands of years, that we sustained our culture on, is all gone in not even a decade because of people’s greed?”

He pointed to outside communities looking for cheap ways to get rid of waste as a primary culprit. MCK chief Serge Otsi Simon, who came later to the baseball diamond, said he told the truck drivers in French that they had to turn back.

“I explained to them, look, you’re no longer welcome here. You tell your company to get the hell out of here. We don’t want them anywhere on Mohawk Territory,” he said.

Following the trucks turning around, the majority of MCK chiefs reconvened at the band office to discuss strategies moving forward.

“I’m beyond fed up,” Simon said, referring to the dumping in the community in recent months.

“We’re trying to remain reasonable about people and they’re wanting to develop, but they’re doing this – it’s like they’re giving the middle finger to the entire community and they’re going to do what they want.”

In response to an inquiry from The Eastern Door last month, Environment Quebec said they have an eye on the issue, but would not confirm any intervention. “As mentioned last November, the ministry is still monitoring soil deposit activities in Kanesatake closely,” said Frédéric Fournier, spokesperson for the ministry. “If other breaches are noted, the ministry will intervene based on its directive on handling breaches. No recourse is excluded to enforce the Environmental Quality Act and its regulations.”

In addition to environmental and territorial concerns, Ellen decried a culture of fear in Kanesatake and the need for community members to make their voices heard. “I want people to understand that we should be able to express our opinions without fearing for threats to our lives, without fearing for our security,” she said.

“I shouldn’t have to feel afraid for expressing my opinion. And that’s what’s happening in Kanesatake.”

marcus@easterndoor.com

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marcus is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.

Previous articleConstitutional challenge heard in Ontario
Next articleTree removal at cultural building shocks community
Marcus is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.