Hunger strikes ends in Kanesatake over 301-year-old land grievance

After 15 days, a First Nations man in Quebec has ended a hunger strike to raise awareness of a 301-year-old unresolved land dispute in Kanesatake.

Al Harrington, an Ojibway man from Shoal Lake 39 at the Ontario/Manitoba border who resides in the Mohawk community, announced on Friday that he will end the hunger strike. Since Oct. 11, he has been living in a tent outside of the Kanesatake longhouse, consuming only cedar tea and other traditional medicines.

“My part in this is complete, but it’s not over,” said Harrington in a Facebook live video. 

He told CBC News he will continue to help the People of the Longhouse in its work to resolve the longstanding land grievance, which resulted in the 1990 Oka Crisis and ongoing issues with Kanesatake’s neighbours in Oka, Que.

“There is much more work to be done and this is just the beginning,” he said. 

The hunger strike is one of the peaceful pressure tactics the longhouse decided to implement following a plea to the federal government in August to issue a moratorium on development throughout the 689 square kilometres of disputed land northwest of Montreal.

Ellen Gabriel, a spokesperson for the People of the Longhouse in Kanesatake, reiterated that they still want a moratorium issued and extended another invitation to the prime minister to meet with them.

In a statement issued prior to the federal election, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh committed to visit Gabriel at the Longhouse, and invited other leaders to do the same.

“The next government will have to begin negotiations with the entire community to address the stalemate as well as the roots of this situation that has gone on for too long. Reconciliation and a true nation-to-nation relationship are not just words; they require work, and I am willing to do it,” the statement read.

The Green Party of Quebec said it supports the call for a moratorium, and urged the Quebec government to take action.

Gabriel said next steps are still being discussed. 

“We still have more plans. This is not the end, but Al’s hunger strike amplified the voices of the longhouse and people are getting aware,” she told CBC News.

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