The mayor of Oka’s remarks about a controversial plan to transfer land to neighbouring Kanesatake were disrespectful, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Obviously, I think the approach lacked the necessary respect and understanding that is key to true reconciliation,” said Trudeau on Thursday. “And I certainly hope that going forward there will be a constructive, collaborative dialogue on how to resolve this situation.”
Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon has repeatedly said this week he is worried that cannabis stores will crop up in the area if a parcel of land central to the Oka Crisis is returned to Kanesatake, a First Nation north of the village.
“We are going to have pot shacks at the entrance of Oka, pot shacks at the exit. Who’s going to want to come and live in Oka?” said Quevillon.
Last week, Quebec land developer Grégoire Gollin announced that he signed an agreement with the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake to give back a parcel of pine forest that was at the heart of Oka Crisis 29 years ago.
In 1990, Oka announced a golf course expansion into the forest known as The Pines. As tensions started to rise between Quebec provincial police and a small group of Mohawks defending the land, gunfire erupted and a police officer was killed on July 11.
The police officer’s death led to a 78-day showdown in the area before a deal was struck to bring down the barricades in exchange for nixing the golf course expansion.
After nearly three decades, strained relations and long-standing disputes over the land remain.
During a fiery and heavily-attended special meeting in Oka on Wednesday, Quevillon claimed he wasn’t consulted on the land transfer.
Following the meeting, the mayor also stood by his remarks in spite of condemnation from Kanesatake and Trudeau.
“They aren’t racist comments,” he said. “Unfortunately they are reality.”
Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says an apology from Quevillon is necessary if the two sides are to meet and discuss solutions.
“The Oka crisis happened. He should have learned from that,” Simon said.
“Instead, he wants to repeat and he wants to make the problem even bigger. He hasn’t learned a damn thing. I don’t want another crisis.”
WATCH: Tensions high in Oka and Kanesatake
— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian Press