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Kanesatake chief retracts rail blockade comments after community uproar

The doors of the Kanesatake Mohawk band council office are padlocked in Kanesatake, Que., on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 as Kanesatake Mohawks protest after comments by their grand chief regarding rail blockades. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

KANESATAKE, Que. — An Indigenous leader in Quebec is retracting comments about ongoing rail blockades that didn’t go over well with members of his own community.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon drew the ire of some community members when he suggested this week that the blockades have had their intended impact and should be lifted, at least temporarily.

Simon told reporters today it wasn’t his place to make such comments, and he will let people on the ground decide what to do.

The nationwide blockades have been erected in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern British Columbia, who oppose the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

A group of protesters angered with Simon’s comments have been blocking access to Kanesatake band council offices since Tuesday afternoon. The doors remained chained and a fire was lit nearby early Wednesday, but Simon says he hoped to regain access to his offices later today.

The community northwest of Montreal was the site of the Oka Crisis, a tense 78-day standoff over disputed woods between the town of Oka and Kanesatake in the summer of 1990.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2020.

The Canadian Press