Some people who live in Kanesatake are afraid and feel abandoned.
That’s the claim made by a coalition of community groups who say they represent terrified residents who are afraid to speak publicly.
“Against the lawlessness of certain individuals in Kanesatake, who have been jeopardizing the health and the safety of the community,” stated a masked spokesperson for the coalition, reading from a statement the group said was prepared by residents.
He didn’t want to be identified, citing concerns for his safety.
The spokesperson and others from the groups protested in front of federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller’s Montreal office Tuesday, accusing federal and provincial governments of ‘passing the buck’ instead of confronting problems in the Mohawk territory west of Montreal.
“There has been no choice but to remain anonymous in this fiasco,” the spokesperson read.
The protesters, who said they wore masks to help conceal the identity of three Kanesatake residents at the protest, pointed out that part of the problem is a recycling dump on the territory that has created an environmental disaster.
Some fear drinking water could eventually become contaminated.
Federal opposition party members insist the issue is being ignored because it’s on Indigenous land.
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“This is really environmental racism and this is colonialism,” said Alexandre Boulerice, NDP member of Parliament for the Montreal riding of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Green Party of Canada deputy leader Jonathan Pedneault agrees.
“There is a clear lack of leadership on the part of the Quebec government but also on the part of the Liberal federal government,” he told reporters at the protest.
In a joint statement from the federal ministries of Indigenous services as well as environment and climate change Canada, federal authorities say they are concerned about the environmental damage and the impact on community safety.
The statement reads, in part, “minister (Patty) Hajdu spoke with Québec minister (responsible for relations with the First Nations and the Inuit) Ian Lafrenière and agreed to convene a trilateral meeting with the Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake to identify next steps as all parties work towards a constructive path forward.
“Minister Hajdu has also met with Grand Chief Bonspille and the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.”
But according to protesters, the meeting isn’t enough.
They say the community wants a safe way for residents to voice their concerns to federal and provincial governments free from intimidation.
“We repeat the need for an independent investigation and for the need for participation from the (United Nations) special rapporteur on the rights of Inidigenous Peoples,” said the coalition spokesperson.
The Kanesatake band council did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.