Kahnawake chiefs to mobilize against Bill 85 in Quebec City

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Grand Chief of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory Joseph Norton appeared on K103 radio Friday to express his opposition to legislation proposed by the Quebec government.

Bill 85 is “an Act to establish two logistics hubs and an economic development corridor along (Highway) 30 and develop the industrial port zones in the Montreal metropolitan area.”

The bill would allow the provincial government to prescribe planning rules for the establishment of logistics sector businesses and to preserve agricultural land in the area. 

The Kahnawake chiefs are planning to travel to Quebec City on Tuesday to make a public statement on the position, according to a press release from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. Norton sent an open letter to Premier Philippe Couillard, outlining the reasons why the council opposes the bill.

If Bill 85 passes, these will be the affected areas around Kahnawake Mohawk Territory and the surrounding communities.

“If the government of Quebec adopts Bill 85 in its present form, it will have immediate and irreparable consequences on the rights, interests and title of the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke,” the letter reads.

“We’re not against any kind of regional development,” Norton said on K103, adding Kahnawake and the surrounding communities are neighbours, and can become good partners. He said over 1,000 people come to Kahnawake to work every day. 

“We contribute, so don’t look at us as if we’re taking,” he said. 

The band council said in a press release lands identified in the bill cut through the Seigneury of Sault St-Louis. The area runs along Highway 30, between Châteauguay and St-Constant, Norton said on the radio. In 1680, the “seigneurial” land was “set aside for the exclusive use and occupation of the Iroquois of the Sault,” now the Mohawks of Kahnawake, by the French Crown.

What followed were hundreds of years of debate over what is called the “Seigneury,” leading up to the present day.   

Last week, a Superior Court decision was made in Kahnawake’s favour regarding a small part of the Seigneury land. Four surrounding municipalities argued the Quebec government should not return the 500 acres to Kahnawake, as it had planned to after the highway’s construction. The case was rejected, but Bill 85 is a greater issue, according to Norton.

A free bus shuttle for community members and local media will be provided for the trip to Quebec City on Tuesday, and will leave the MCK at 9 a.m. Those willing to attend are asked to confirm with Brandi Meloche by Monday at noon at 450-632-7500 or brandi.meloche@mck.ca. The bus will return to Kahnawake immediately after the proceedings. The letter can be viewed in its entirety at www.kahnawake.com.

“Our People are tired of the inaction, broken promises, and disregard of our interests that are undertaken by your government,” Norton’s open letter reads. “We can no longer remain stoic; we must take a more vocal and stronger presence to ensure we are not ignored.”

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