By Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterThe Eastern Door
Sun., Nov. 14, 2021timer3 min. read
Elected for the first time in 2014, then re-elected in 2017, Pascal Quevillon will begin a third term as mayor of Oka following the municipality’s election on Sunday, November 7.
With a total of 3,672 registered electors, this year’s voter turnout in Oka was 50.4 percent.
Garnering 58.4 percent of votes, Quevillon defeated his opponent Julie Tremblay-Cloutier, who herself took home 41.6 percent of the ballots.
As he heads toward holding the title of mayor for another four years, Quevillon expressed that his perspective is “not against Mohawks,” but rather “for the citizens of Oka.”
“Despite what many people may think, we have a good collaboration with the community of Kanesatake who we live and share businesses with,” said the mayor. “But, it’s sure that there are certain issues in Kanesatake that overflow into our municipality, which causes inconvenience to our citizens.”
While Quevillon asserted that, certain issues aside, his relationship with Kanehsata’kehró:non is positive, Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) grand chief Victor Akweriente Bonspille painted a rather different picture.
“(Quevillon) needs to stop accusing our community of being criminals and drug dealers. Because these are issues that exist everywhere – they’re in Oka as well,” said Bonspille.
Frictions between the community have long existed, but recent events, including a murder at a cannabis dispensary along Route 344 and a repeatedly denounced lack of police interference, have put further strain on the already fragile relationship.
“I know we’re going to possibly run into some disagreements but that’s also part of politics,” expressed the grand chief. “I just hope that there’s some form of understanding to come from Oka’s side as to where we stand (as a community) – especially when it comes to our lands.”
Bonspille emphasized that land claims have long been a contentious matter in Kanesatake.
Throughout the para-military Siege of Kanehsatake in 1990, to the decade-long negotiations of a specific land claim, and this year’s contested municipal bylaw rezoning of the Pines, Kanehsata’kehró:non have continuously had to step forward to advocate for their inherent land rights.
“When we talk about land claims, this is often what divides us,” said Quevillon. “Unfortunately, they are a federal jurisdiction, so at the municipal council of Oka, we just need to continue to be here to preserve the rights of the citizens of Oka.”
Notwithstanding jurisdictional duties, the mayor expressed that if there is an opportunity to work together and find common ground, his administration would be pleased to join efforts with the MCK.
In addition to this, Quevillon underlined Oka’s willingness to assist with the tackling of problems connected to the operation of the now-closed G&R Recycling site, the decontamination of the Lake of Two Mountains, as well as other matters that have repercussions on both communities.
In the end, the mayor insisted on a need for reciprocal respect from all actors involved.
“Mutual respect must be put forward. As much respect for the people of the community of Oka as for those of Kanesatake,” said Quevillon.
For his part, Bonspille is calling for not only respect but also increased consciousness from the neighbouring mayor.
“I’m hoping for a good relationship, acknowledgement and understanding. All these things are important,” said Bonspille. “They have to acknowledge that Kanesatake has been here long before any Oka settlers arrived. Kanehsata’kehró:non and Onkwehón:we have both been here long before.”