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GATINEAU POLICE RAID SACRED SITE

Six Arrested after City Files Court Injunction

by Andy Crosby

Photo: Darryl Reid
Photo: Darryl Reid
Photo: Darryl Reid
Photo: Darryl Reid
Photo: Darryl Reid
Photo: Darryl Reid

At the request of Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, around 40 police officers raided an Algonquin sacred site on Jacques-Cartier Road on Sept. 18, arresting six people opposing a waterfront development project.

Pedneaud-Jobin sought a court injunction after Indigenous peoples defending the site, situated where the Gatineau and Ottawa rivers intersect, defied a 24-hour warning to vacate.

The site is sacred because an historical meeting place is located where the two rivers meet, Audrey Redman of the Dakota First Nation told the Leveller. “It represents not just the past but the present.”

Two tipis were erected and a sacred fire was lit on Aug. 7 to protect the area after city officials attempted to bulldoze an archaeological site which revealed artifacts ranging from 3,500 to 6,000 years old.

The area has come under heavy construction, making life difficult for local residents, who according to Redman are predominantly a mixture of Algonquin, Huron, Iroquois, and Quebecois. The city has also destabilized the homes in the area through the use of heavy equipment along with cutting down 80 trees, she told the Leveller.

The city aims to install a new storm sewer as part of a $43 million waterfront redevelopment project in partnership with the National Capital Commission (NCC) who has contributed $10 million and $6 million worth of land.

Although the city maintained its position over recent weeks that the site was neither substantial nor sacred, meetings and negotiations were held between the mayor and the defenders.

“The city was willing to work with us on the issue but refused to sign anything or make an announcement to the media in front of the tipis after we asked them to do so,” said the chief of off-reserve Fort Coulonge Algonquins Roger Fleury.

By mid-September the city quickly escalated its tactics, culminating in the forcible removal and arrest of those at the site.

“They’re shaming Gatineau,” Fleury told the Leveller. “This is unceded land and they are destroying everything in their path.”

“They don’t want an archaeological site and they don’t want First Nations here,” he said.

Pedneaud-Jobin attempted to bypass consultation with those protecting the sacred site by telling the media he had received approval from Kitigan Zibi, an Algonquin community 134 kilometres north of Ottawa. The city’s lawyers told the same story to the judge who granted the injunction, which factored in the decision to grant the eviction order, according to APTN National News.

However, despite Pedneaud-Jobin’s claims that the Kitigan Zibi band council had passed a resolution on Sept. 5 stating their support, Chief Gilbert Whiteduck told APTN that they had no formal agreement with the city of Gatineau.

After evicting the camp, police set up chain fences around the sacred site which is now being monitored by police, private security, and surveillance cameras.

“It’s an invasion,” confirmed Redman. “They can call us squatters and occupiers but who are the ones occupying what is not theirs?”

“We are on unceded land and there is no agreement for what’s to take place,” Redman told the Leveller. “Under treaty, this land is protected by the Crown from encroachment.”

“Why is it that we are not able to come to a resolution on this?” she asked. “They are not able to build trust with violence.”

Redman supports building a good economy in the area but one that keeps the land in its natural state and consults with local residents. She’d also like to see a First Peoples education or interpretation centre that shows the history of the area.

According to Fleury, there are potential legal implications for the parties involved, including the NCC, if the city goes ahead and systematically destroys the artifacts.

Before the raid, the NCC had failed to send a representative to the site. This  prompted Fleury to ask, “Are they financing the genocide of our archaeological objects?

At the time of printing, Fleury remained behind bars having refused to sign his release conditions.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 7, No. 1


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