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Anonymous group renews push for justice

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About a year after a media campaign that turned the country’s attention to the government’s failures to act on G&R Recycling and a climate of lawlessness and fear in the community, a group of anonymous Kanehsata’kehró:non have released a new open letter to highlight the continued urgency of their cause. 

“The federal government and provincial government are treating the issue like a hot potato,” said Pink, a pseudonym used by a member of the group, in an interview with The Eastern Door.

“I think it serves the government to say we’ll put it on the Mohawks, yet they are not willing to apply any kind of environmental laws that would protect the community, that would protect our safety. I think the situation has gotten worse, to be honest with you.” 

The group’s letter demands answers from minister Patty Hajdu, who heads up Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), for her office’s failure to meaningfully advance the remediation of G&R, the toxic dump site that has languished for years and continues to wreak environmental havoc.

The cleanup, which could cost as much as $100 million or more according to some projections, has still not been worked out or even begun. 

The open letter was sent to Hajdu directly, according to a subsequent press release, which noted the group did not receive a reply. The authors of the letter write that while the group has had productive meetings with Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s Indigenous affairs minister, Hajdu has not engaged with them. 

“We welcome any positive changes, we welcome any kind of progress toward restoring the health and safety of the people of Kanesatake and the environment, but why is it taking so long? Why do we have to shame them publicly? Why is this even happening? And it’s all rooted in colonial dysfunction,” said Pink.

The letter questions the recent selection of W8banaki to coordinate preliminary work on the site, a decision made by the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) and recently accepted by ISC. It also asks how the government will ensure the costly process doesn’t spur local corruption and asks for tangible answers about how environmental racism will be addressed to protect the community from another G&R.

“Nobody went after the companies that have been bringing all this toxic waste into our community, so nothing has changed,” said Pink. 

“This dump site has been allowed to continue because we are disposable people.” 

The latest push comes as dump trucks, many of them from Nexus Construction, have flooded the community’s roadways by the hundreds for months and months, dumping landfill of dubious quality. 

According Frédéric Fournier, a spokesperson from Environment Quebec, the company has faced no sanctions for its activities in Kanesatake. A recent inspection attempt by Environment Quebec was abandoned following a physical altercation targeting Mohawk Council of Kanesatake chiefs. 

“The ministry will intervene at the appropriate time and no recourse is excluded,” said Fournier, who acknowledged the decision to call off the inspection was made in coordination with the SQ. 

The press release from the anonymous group this week refers to a finding published by The Rover over the weekend that a load of soil destined for the shores of the Lake of Two Mountains in Kanesatake contained broken up asphalt, an environmental violation with worrisome implications. 

“This is a lawless community that is imploding, that has become a playground for everybody else while community members who have lived here all their life see the deterioration of the health of this community – mentally, physically, and spiritually,” said Pink. 

A reply from ISC to questions from The Eastern Door did not answer whether the ministry will meet or reply to the anonymous group of concerned community members or expand local consultations. 

However, Hajdu’s press secretary, Jennifer Kozelj, did weigh in on the selection of W8banaki. 

“We will never impose a decision on First Nations. Through a Band Council resolution on November 21, the community of Kanesatake decided to mandate Wabanaki to coordinate the site studies,” wrote Kozelj. 

“To refuse this resolution and impose other processes would go against the spirit of reconciliation.” 

Kozelj emphasized that W8banaki will have a coordinating role and will issue calls for tenders. 

“We strongly suggest that anyone with information about criminal activity contact the Surete du Quebec (SQ). The federal government is not in the position to tell the SQ what to do.” 

ISC spokesperson Carolane Gratton also sent responses to questions about the open letter and press release. 

“ISC is aware of the situation reported by Kanesatake and neighbouring communities regarding trucks dumping loads of soil on the shores of the Lake of Two Mountains. This situation is being closely monitored.” 

Gratton wrote that ISC is in touch with Quebec, Canada’s environment ministry, and the Surete du Quebec (SQ). 

“Further questions regarding this situation should be sent directly to the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake or to the SQ, which is the entity responsible for maintaining peace, public order, and the security of citizens on the territory of Kanesatake,” said Gratton. 

“In the absence of an Indigenous police force, it is also responsible for ensuring the safety of Indigenous citizens living in the communities. Questions regarding the safety of Kanesatake members must be addressed directly to the SQ.” 

Pink characterized the band council system as benefitting colonial governments, framing the relationship as one of collusion, with all levels of government leaving the community out of decision-making at every turn.

“This is another reason we want an investigation because it does impact our health and wellbeing and security, and everybody has a right to live in security,” Pink said.

marcus@easterndoor.com

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.

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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.