This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Oka Crisis, the land dispute between the Mohawk community of Kanesatake and Oka residents. The standoff began July 11th, 1990 lasting until September 26th, 1990.
The dispute began when Oka, the nearby town wanted to expand their golf course (from 9 holes to 18 holes) and add residential development. The land in question was sacred to the Mohawks because it was a burial ground and pineland. The Mohawks had filed a land claim prior to the standoff but it was rejected.
The mayor of Oka, Jean Ouellette ordered that the disputed land be cleared to make room for the development which led the Mohawks to set up road blockades. This sparked an escalated dispute between the two sides. Both the the Quebec Provincial Police, and the Canadian Armed Forces were called in to fight. The violent standoff lasted 78 days. Marcel Lemay, a 31 year old SQ Corporal, was the only casualty.
Oka remains a controversial and powerful story in Canada’s history. The Oka Crisis unveiled the historic and ever present tensions between First Nations and the Canadian government.
Canada is a nation of nations, a mosaic of varying cultures and identities. July 11 marks a historic day to remember the consequences of disputing nations.