April 11, 2018
To the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau
Re: Double standards by government agencies regarding Land Dispute and protection of Indigenous People in Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka Homelands
Shé:kon – Greetings Prime Minister Trudeau;
I write to you today to bring to your attention the long standing historical land dispute in Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka Territory. Twenty-eight years ago our community began a blockade on a small secondary dirt road to stop the expansion of a 9 hole golf course and condominium development.
Today while the golf course remains a 9 hole course, condominium and land theft continues on Kanien’kehá:ka Traditional Homelands in what you call “OKA”.
Rotinonhseshá:ka of Kaianera’kó:wa of Kanehsatà:ke have written you several letters in the past year, to ask you to put a halt to the land theft in Kanehsatà:ke traditional homelands. Your response is to pass it along to Minister Carolyn Bennett who is part of the problem as she has been stonewalling our requests that INAC put a halt, a moratorium on the development in the part of our homelands called OKA. But she has refused to help in any way that would help resolve our long standing historical land dispute.
Minister Bennett spoke with me last November 22, 2017 in Université de Québec á Ouataouis during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I told her that her refusal to help and her silence on this issue conveys a message to the public that Kanien’kehá:ka lives are unimportant and that the status quo of colonialism will prevail. After a while, she finally told me angrily, “Well if you don’t like it, take it to the courts!”
We have been a very patient Nation that continues to wait for the settler colonial government of Canada to have a good mind, to be a people that love peace and are honorable. We have been waiting a very long time, but sadly for this generation, and it seems that once again there is no good will or honorable dealings on the part of Canada to resolve Kanehsatà:ke Homelands disputes. It is disrespectful and disappointing to see that the racist status quo of colonialism continues. Prime Minister Trudeau as I hear you speak of equality, of reconciliation, of nation to nation relationship, but given your lack of response to the land theft in Kanehsatà:ke, and in regards to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, what I interpret this to mean is that it does not apply to Indigenous peoples.
Prime Minister, you quote a ‘Rule of Law’, that is flawed, is based upon the racist Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius that allows Canada an assumed sovereignty on sovereign Indigenous lands.
Yesterday I passed by the development site, only to see a new foundation being dug for yet another home on disputed, contested Kanien’kehá:ka Rotinonhseshá:ka Homelands.
Mr. Gregoire Gollin and the Municipalité d’Oka have yet again begun selling and giving permits to build houses on disputed homelands of the Kanien’kehá:ka. Oka and Mr. Gollin, under the permission and collusion oof Canada are committing land theft and the home buyer who should know better that the expression, “Caveat Emptor” applies to the purchase of all lands in the traditional homelands of the Rotinononseshá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke.
In Kanehsatà:ke and indeed, in all of Canada, Band Councils, which are a colonial construct created to deepen the divisions in the communities, remains the only “recognized” body Canada will speak to. This is a conflict of interest as band councils are an arm of the federal government and do what they are told and permitted to do by the Minister of Indian Affairs.
In the meantime, Canada continues to implement a policy and legislation that criminalizes Indigenous traditional governments who have survived colonialism: such as the Rotinonhseshá:ka – (the people of the Longhouse) in Kanehsatà:ke, who have led the public awareness campaigns and demonstrations to create awareness to all that when they buy land in the Municipality of Oka, they are purchasing disputed land, contested by the Rotinonhseshá:ka Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke.
Minister Bennett has mentioned to her constituents that the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake “chief” agrees with the development. Thus spinning her own version of the truth to further deprive present and future generations of Kanien’kehá:ka from the use and enjoyment of our homelands.
Excluding the Rotinonhseshá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke from any negotiations on our traditional homelands runs contrary to a democratic process and is also contrary to your statement that Indigenous peoples are a priority to you, and that Canada will implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Under the Iroquois Confederacy of Kaianera’kó:wa (Great Law of Peace), the women are the title holders of the land. By Canada’s refusal to deal the Rotinonhseshá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke, Canada violates many of its international obligations especially under the UN Charter where it states in its preamble paragraph, to:
- “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
- to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, …”
I would like to remind you of some of Canada’s international human rights obligations from the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 21, regarding the core obligations of states in the protection of our cultural heritage and resources:
applicable with immediate effect:
(e) To allow and encourage the participation of persons belonging to minority groups, indigenous peoples or to other communities in the design and implementation of laws and policies that affect them. In particular, States parties should obtain their free and informed prior consent when the preservation of their cultural resources, especially those associated with their way of life and cultural expression, are at risk.
Article ll.2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.
The community of Kanehsatà:ke has never been dealt with fairly or honestly by the government of Canada and the province of Québec, especially in regards to the passing of the legislation Bill S-24 “the interim Kanesatake Land Management Act”. This was also done fraudulently.
It continues to exacerbate the land dispossession on Kanehsatà:ke Iroquois Confederacy homelands. I therefore ask you to intervene in this matter immediately, put a halt to any land negotiations and place a moratorium on all development on traditional Kanien’kehá:ka lands as Canada is adding to the problem of our long-standing historical issues in Kanehsatà:ke than we were 28 years ago
I ask respectfully to intervene quickly and to be on the right side of justice and history; please honor your pledge to honor and respect the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples and put an end to colonial oppression that continues to oppress and perpetuate land and cultural heritage dispossession of the Indigenous peoples.
Skén:nen – in peace
Turtle Clan from Kanehsatà:ke, Rotinonhseshá:ka
 United Nations Charter, preambular para. 1,
 Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 21, Right of everyone to take part in cultural life (art. 15, para. 1 (a), of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/21 (21 December 2009):
 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, September 13, 2007