Home News Oka residents pledge solidarity on dumping

Oka residents pledge solidarity on dumping

Courtesy Shelby Karonianoron McComber

Spurred by a recent wave of external media coverage of dumping in the community, a group of Oka residents and affiliated groups have vowed to support Kanehsata’kehró:non with a blockade to stop dump trucks if necessary.

The residents have the support of the anonymous group of concerned Kanehsata’kehró:non whose calls for action on the environment and public security problems in the community brought countrywide attention to Kanesatake and the still unremediated G&R Recycling site.

“I think it’s badly needed that our communities work together to try and protect the environment,” said Pink, one of the spokespeople of the anonymous group of Kanehsata’kehró:non.

“We can’t do anything because Mohawks are working with organized crime and we can’t say anything against them or we’ll be threatened,” they said.

“When the white people speak, more people listen to them than they do to us, so it’s a significant signifier of solidarity, and it’s something that we need because the environment is precious to us, and the government has been part of this dysfunction. Maybe they’ll listen to their constituents, because they’re definitely not listening to us.”

Pink noted that there is nothing being done by government authorities to stem the flow of hundreds of dump trucks each day, whether there or at the construction sites that are profiting from sending possibly contaminated materials to Kanesatake. 

“Right now, there are hundreds of trucks that are unloading what comes from construction sites,” said Julie Tremblay-Cloutier, Oka resident and spokesperson of the non-Indigenous group. “We don’t know what it is. It’s not regulated. We don’t know what’s in it.”

Tremblay-Cloutier added that the materials, which are being deposited at the shore of the Lake of Two Mountains, impact the drinking water of a larger area.

More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition hosted by Eau Secours, a Montreal-based organization that aims to protect drinking water, demanding action. According to Tremblay-Cloutier, more than 100 people in the J0N postal code alone have signed it, showing the breadth of local support.

“Everybody just doesn’t know what to do anymore,” said Tremblay-Cloutier, who said after years of meetings, still nothing is being done to confront an environmental emergency in Kanesatake since the revelations about G&R.

The group is demanding a meeting with provincial minister of public security François Bonnardel and federal minister of public security Dominic LeBlanc, whom they say have been silent on the issue of public safety in Kanesatake.

“We are in solidarity with the Mohawk people right now, and right now our neighbours are suffering,” said Tremblay-Cloutier, who suggested the government’s inaction has been unacceptable.

“It sends a message that anybody can go there and do whatever they want.”

The disturbance and safety issues that come with so many trucks rolling down the road are affecting not only Kanesatake but Oka as well, she said.

“There are families and just good people that live up there,” said Tremblay-Cloutier. “But the government is standing in a position where they treat them all in the same bucket like they’re all criminals, and that they don’t deserve security and respect. To me it’s nonsense.”

She believes if the group of Oka residents and their allies were to resort to a blockade, hundreds of people would answer the call to step up to defend their neighbours’ safety and the sanctity of the environment.

“We know there’s a big impact of pollution in the lake,” said Rébecca Pétrin, executive director of Eau Secours, about environmental abuses in Kanesatake. She said nearly a million people get their drinking water from the lake.

“Even if it’s in the press, even if everybody knows this problem, they continue the pollution just because there’s nobody to stop them. What we want as a solution is more security. We need to stop this,” Pétrin said, who signalled that her organization will be involved in blocking roads if necessary, although she emphasized only dump trucks would be targeted.

“It’s a big myth about Quebec regulation,” said Pétrin. “Nobody gets involved because since it’s an Indigenous community, it doesn’t matter for Quebec. But it’s all our drinking water, so it’s very important to stop the pollution.”

The group of Oka residents was characterized as small by Oka mayor Pascal Quevillon on Thursday in a Facebook post in which he expressed his opposition to a blockade.

“For our part, we are not in favour of this type of initiative, which encourages confrontation and a risk of collapse,” wrote Quevillon.

“The municipality of Oka is in no way associated with this movement, and we ask Oka residents to remain peaceful. We are in communication with government authorities because it is they who must act and not the population, for the safety of all.”

However, exasperated with governments playing hot potato with the environment and public safety in Kanesatake, concerned Kanehsata’kehró:non are eager for action.

“I hope the Okoises are serious about their support,” said Pink. “I hope they understand, I’m sure they understand what they’re up against. I really hope that the community will one day find a safe place to be able to express ourselves, and to restore the balance that our community desperately needs. 

“Violence, the screeching of tires, dumping. That’s not normal. That’s not part of our culture. It’s abnormal. People that are living through all this dysfunction, the youth see this as being normal. It’s not. It’s quite the contrary. 

“I hope we will have a time when we can express ourselves without feeling threatened, because this is scary. It’s scary to see this community. It’s not fun to see the destruction and the erosion of a once beautiful community into being the playground for everybody from Montreal and the surrounding communities.”

marcus@easterndoor.com

This article was originally published in print on July 5 in issue 33.27 of The Eastern Door.

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.