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PRESS RELEASE For immediate publication.
Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) firstname.lastname@example.org
September 12th , 2023, “Mohawk Mothers Return to Court Thursday As McGill and SQI Drill Holes At Royal Victoria Hospital” Tio’tià:ke (Montreal) –
The Mohawk Mothers held a press conference at the corner of Pine and Peel sts. on September 12, 2023, at 2:30pm.
The Kahnistensera filed an Emergency Motion to halt drilling and excavation at the Royal Victoria Hospital site, which will be heard on Thursday September 14 at the Montreal. Superior Court. The Emergency Motion details breaches to the Settlement Agreement by McGIll and the SQI that the Mohawk Mothers repeatedly raised in direct talks about the way they are handling the archaeological investigation ordered by the Quebec Superior Court to search for unmarked graves of victims of medical experiments.
The Kahnistensera are shocked that McGill and SQI have pressed ahead with construction on September 11, 2022 by drilling a large number of holes marking the beginning of a series of excavations.
The same day, McGill University issued a message to all its staff and students, declaring that the investigation of the zone is complete and that no evidence of graves was found. The Mohawk Mothers see these as major provocations, as the investigation is far from complete. McGill’s message emphasizes favourable findings while concealing or downplaying several discoveries that confirm the possibility of unmarked burials at the New Vic site. These discoveries require further follow-up to determine whether the New Vic work can safely proceed.
On August 29, 2023 the Mohawk Mothers filed a motion for a safeguard order to enforce the settlement agreement signed by all parties in April 2023. This follows a landmark injunction stopping work in October 2022. The Kahnistensera flagged several breaches to the letter and spirit of the settlement agreement: McGill and SQI disbanded the panel of three archaeologist experts agreed upon by all parties to make recommendations on the findings.
The Kahnistensera’s court files show that McGill and the SQI refused to follow several recommendations from the archaeologists, such as sifting the soil of areas where anomalies of potential bodies were located. Court documents also reveal that the SQI refused to share data from Ground Penetrating Radar GPR with the Canadian Archaeology Association CAA and the panel of experts. They silenced numerous “unknown” anomalies that the GPR report say could possibly be graves of children without coffins. Several artifacts, including a dress, children’s shoes and bones excavated in a zone where search dogs detected the scent of human remains have not yet been examined by experts. The origin of the scent of human remains picked up by search dogs has not been established.
The Kahnistensera state the SQI and McGill have refused to allow the search dogs to return to the site to sniff the piles of soil that were excavated or to determine whether the smell came from inside the building, where archaeologists were denied access.
“Since disbanding the Panel, McGill and SQI have basically decided to take over the whole investigation. They have been opposed to it even happening from the start,” said Kwetiio, a Mohawk Mother. “Their behaviour goes against the court order that this would be Indigenous-led”, she said, “This could have been done the right way and provide closure to survivors and the families.”
On July 25th the work stopped for three weeks after the Mohawk Mothers and Cultural Monitors were attacked by security guards working for the SQI. The guards assaulted a person to take his phone and erase a video, while someone else recorded racist insults and threats against the Mohawk elders and cultural monitors.”
According to Kahentinetha, “On September 11 we saw these same two security guards on the archaeological site. The SQI told us they had been removed”. Even though the settlement agreement allowed Indigenous cultural monitors to be on the site and monitor the work, Kahentinetha says they now fear for their safety. “The security guards who attacked us are still there, while SQI and McGill want to rush in large-scale excavation for their New Vic project. In fact they drilled those holes yesterday without us being present. They didn’t even give us safety training for working in zones under construction with heavy machinery, and we don’t have the proper equipment. The settlement agreement said we have to be there, but the conditions are extremely dangerous.” The Kahnistensera had already flagged violations of construction safety regulations such as masonry material stacked higher than 1.8 meters next to an unsanitary toilet that cultural monitors were expected to use. “Are we still being treated like animals, like a problem to get rid of, in the heart of Montreal, where the villages of our ancestors sit,” said Kahentinetha. “But we will not take genocide anymore, both Canadian and Mohawk laws affirm this,” she said.
The Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) is a Kahnawake-based group that helps Indigenous women carry out their traditional cultural duty as caretakers of the land, to protect all life, including their children and ancestors. They have been engaged in a legal challenge with promoters of the New Vic project to stall future excavation of the former Royal Victoria Hospital site until a proper archaeological investigation is conducted, using the traditional protocols of the Kaianere’kó:wa (Great Peace).
Let us look at the kahnisensera portrayed as ‘Dixie’ in this song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, by The Band. “Virgil King is the name and I ride the Danville train. Til Stoneman’s Calvary came and tore off the tracks again. It was the winter of ’65. We were hungry and barely alive. I took the train into Richmond that day. It was a time i remember oh so well. Chorus: The night they drove old dixie down and all the bells were ringing. The night they drove old Dixie down, and all the people were singing. they were ….”
Quebec Superior Court #500-17-120-468-221 kahentinetha et al v. SQI, McGill et al.
Contact for press: email@example.com Kahnawake, P.O. Box 991, que. canada J0L 1B0