Mohawks want a "modern treaty"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Dec 22 06:54:42 MST 2000

Widely opposed 'historic' land deal at site of 1990 Oka conflict is signed

OTTAWA (CP) - A land governance deal ratified by a margin of two votes was
signed Thursday for the territory where Mohawks stared down Canadian Forces
soldiers at Oka in 1990. Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault called the
widely opposed deal a "historic" testament to the merits of "negotiation
over confrontation. "I'm convinced it will lead to a new era of civic
harmony in the region," he said before a signing ceremony on Parliament
Hill. The agreement recognizes an interim land base for the native
community and its legal status under the Constitution.

It also calls for harmonizing Kanesatake laws with the bylaws of the
adjacent municipality of Oka, Que., about 50 kilometres northwest of
Montreal. James Gabriel, grand chief of the Mohawks of Kanesatake, said the
deal - if enacted by legislation still to be introduced and passed - offers
certainty needed to attract investment. His community ratified the
agreement in October by 239 to 237 votes, with 10 spoiled ballots. Fewer
than half of about 1,000 eligible voters turned out, reflecting opposition
from traditionalists who don't recognize the elected band council's authority.

"James Gabriel and his council can claim to work for Canada, not the people
of Kanesatake," said a statement released by Walter David on behalf of
Mohawk traditionalists. "It is our opinion that the government of Canada is
negotiating with (itself), in that the present band council system in
Canada is (the government's) creation: by policy, funding and procedures."
By tradition, women are the titleholders of the territories and custodians
of the land, says the statement. "No band council or individuals have the
moral or ethical right to negotiate instruments that will impact on our
children, grandchildren and beyond."

The pact would allow the band council to enact bylaws governing the
958-hectare territory. That includes 174 properties purchased by Ottawa
since 1990 at a cost of $17 million. The deal would offer a clear
definition of Kanesatake lands, settling questions of jurisdiction that
have hampered business development. The Mohawk jobless rate typically hits
as high as 40 per cent, compared with a national average of about seven per

Ultimately, the Mohawks want a "modern treaty," Gabriel said Thursday.
"Self-government as defined by the federal government is not where we're
headed." As for those against giving the band council such powers, Gabriel
said: "It's always healthy to have opposition in politics." The band
council system has existed in the community for seven years, he added.
"We're a young democracy" and more people will be swayed with time, Gabriel

Louis Proyect
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