The Grand Chief of Kanesatake, Serge Otsi Simon, says he retracts his comments calling for an end to widespread rail blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C.
“It is not my place to make such judgment,” Simon said. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for the Indigenous people taking a stand to defend their rights.”
He apologized for any harm or confusion caused by his comments, and said he fully supports the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that is to run through their traditional territory.
The elected grand chief of the Mohawk community near Oka, Que., was locked out of his band council office Tuesday by community members calling for his resignation after his public appeal to First Nations protesters to bring down the blockades, saying that their point had been made.
“They decided that my comments were irresponsible or not called for, that I didn’t consult with them before I said anything,” Simon said. “But I was acting in the best interest of my community and the safety of my community.”
John Harding, one of the Kanesatake Mohawks who protested against Simon’s comments, said Tuesday the grand chief failed to acknowledge the community’s own history. Thirty years ago, a dispute over a planned golf course expansion onto sacred Mohawk lands triggered the 78-day standoff known as the Oka Crisis.
“In 1990, we had the support of Indigenous people from the whole country,” said Harding. “So we wanted to tell our brothers and sisters that we’re in solidarity with them.”
Premier calls for end to blockades
Quebec Premier François Legault once again Wednesday called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step in to resolve the crisis. He said the railway blockades are affecting the province economically.
“Trudeau needs to prove his leadership,” Legault said. “It needs to be fast — as in, days, not weeks.”
“We have to put a deadline” for finding a peaceful solution, Legault said Tuesday, although he stopped short of calling on the federal government to use force to remove protesters.
He said sending in police to put an end to the blockades cannot be dismissed as an option.