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Oka mayor apologizes to Kanesatake grand chief for inflammatory comments

Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon has apologized to Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon for comments that led to tensions between between the two communities.

Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillion, second from right, has apologized to Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon, second from left, for comments he made earlier this summer. (Ville de Québec)

The mayor of Oka has apologized to the grand chief of Kanesatake for comments he made earlier this summer that led to tensions between between the two communities.

The pair reconciled at the First Nations-Municipalities Summit underway in Wendake, near Quebec City.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon “showed a lot of courage, taking the first step.”

In July, Quevillon said he was concerned that Oka would become “surrounded” by Kanesatake territory if a plan for a local developer to give 60 hectares of land to the Kanesatake Mohawks and sell them another 150 hectares through a federal program were to come to fruition.

He also said Mohawk land is plagued by illegal dumps, cannabis and cigarette merchants and contaminated water.

Simon has been demanding an apology, and Quevillon refused to give one — he once said he would not apologize “for telling the truth.”

But on Friday, the two men stood together and announced they have made up.

“It’s time to turn the page, to look forward and work together for our two communities, for the good of our communities,  that’s why we were elected and that is what we are going to do,” Quevillon said.

“We were here for reconciliation and that’s what happened.”

In a tweet, Quebec Indigenous Affairs Minister Sylvie D’Amours commended Quevillon’s apology. Both the federal and provincial governments tried to help end the impasse.

Developer Grégoire Gollin said he wants to transfer some of the land, known as The Pines, in the spirit of reconciliation, through a federal ecological gifts program.

The land is part of the same contentious undeveloped property that became the focus of international attention 29 years ago, when a 78-day armed standoff was sparked by the town of Oka’s plan to expand its municipal golf course.

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