by Christopher Curtis, Cross Posted from Montreal Gazette
A group of South Shore mayors are reeling after the Parti Québécois government announced its decision Friday to give back 300 hectares of land to the Kahnawake Mohawks.
The farmland was appropriated in 2006 during construction of the Highway 30 project and will be ceded back to the First Nation in the near future. It lies along the border of Kahnawake, Châteauguay, St-Constant, Ste-Isidore and Ste-Catherine.
But the mayors claim they were never consulted throughout the process, which led them dumbfounded by Friday’s announcement.
“Right now, (the PQ) has been talking and negotiating with Kahnawake and telling us on one occasion they pass by and say: ‘Listen, we started to discuss about it with Kahnawake, and we’ll come back and you’ll be part of the process,’ but that never happened,” Châteauguay Mayor Nathalie Simon told CTV Montreal.
Mohawk band council spokesperson Joe Delaronde said he doesn’t understand the source of controversy.
“This has been in the works for years now, where’s the surprise,” he told The Gazette. “I guess that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Delaronde would not comment further on the matter until it is brought before the band council Monday. Reports of negotiations over the 300 hectares were widely publicized in The Gazette and other media as early as July 2012.
Simon told CTV Montreal she believes the land that will be handed over to the Mohawks belongs to her municipality. Calling the 300 hectares “our territory,” the statement elicited some reaction over Twitter and other social media — with observers noting the irony of a non-aboriginal politician complaining about losing land to an aboriginal reserve.
This may be the first time since Confederation that land has been given back to the Kahnawake Mohawks. The First Nation is in the preliminary stages of filing a 40,000 acre land claim with the federal government that dates back to the 17th century.