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MNN. July 27, 2023. Work to uncover human remains has stopped. Search dogs detected human remains on June 9th in front of the Hersey Pavilion of the old Royal Victoria Hospital RVH in Montreal. On July 25th 2023 Indigenous elders and cultural monitors were aggressed by security guards. At approximately 15:30 the Kanien’keha:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) and Indigenous cultural monitors were preparing to leave work. The cultural monitors observe work being done to uncover human remains at the RVH, as provided by a Settlement Agreement between the Kanien’keha:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) and a slew of Defendants, including the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) and McGill University. An injunction was obtained on October 2022 to halt excavation work for the New Vic project to search for unmarked graves of children killed by medical experiments in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Cultural monitors were present when Historic Human Remains Detection Dogs (HHRDD) and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) were used on the site earlier in July, with no incident. A good working relationship had been reached with the archaeologists of Ethnoscop who were now charged with excavating the soil in a 10-meter radius around the target identified by the dogs HHRDD. At 3:30 the work day came to an end. Suddenly three individuals presented themselves at the top of the hill as security personnel. They wore no identification and refused to disclose their names so It was impossible to verify whether they were accredited security guards or vigilantes. They also refused to name their clients.
One Mohawk Mother went to talk with them while the other cultural monitors were finishing a meeting and preparing to leave. One of the security guards, a female, presented herself as the “boss” of SQI security. She immediately threatened to call the police to usher the Mohawk Mothers and cultural monitors off the site. The Mohawk Mother was shocked by the aggressive tone of the women and her haste to throw out kanienkehaka Mohawk observers when office hours were not even over yet. She reminded the security guards that Mohawk monitors were present as part of a court order and a settlement agreement to make sure excavation work was consistent with Indigenous protocols regarding burial sites and to conduct ceremonies. The woman said she knew nothing about it and aggressively insisted that everyone vacate the site immediately. She dialed the police. The Mohawk Mother then informed the rest of the group about what was happening. They had not been directly notified to immediately leave. One person opened his telephone to record the incident. When the “boss” saw that she was being filmed by someone, she brutally jumped on him, grabbed the telephone from his hands and gave it to her colleague, who erased it. Another person present then realized the gravity of the situation and turned on his camera from afar. The video, available here – https://ufile.io/v27xu0al – shows some of the outrageous insults that the SQI security used against the Indigenous elders and cultural monitors as they were leaving the site, to avoid being subjected to violence. They were told that the police would “squish you out”, that they should “go and have some kids” and “go and get a life because I don’t think you have a life”, and to “go back to your kids if you have any, I don’t think you have any”.
Mohawk Mother Kahentinetha responded “what about our kids that were murdered and that you’re benefiting from?” The security lady said “That’s right, we’re benefiting from it. That’s exactly right”. This violent incident was highly traumatic for the Indigenous elders, survivors and cultural monitors present, reminding them of brutality being used by security personnel against Indigenous people, especially women. Indigenous observers do not feel safe going at the site to carry out their duties under the eye of a security firm which aggressed them verbally and physically.: grabbing their telephone and erasing evidence, yelling and insulting blasphemous and offensive language and refusing to disclose their identity as a security guard which is illegal according to S-3.5, r. 3 – Regulation respecting standards of conduct of agent licence holders carrying on a private security activity. A complaint is being filed by the Mohawk Mothers with the Bureau de la Securité Privée. The SQI has refused to disclose the identity of the security guards, what their instructions were and whether they had received cultural competency training.
In view of the the threat posed by the personnel hired by the SQI the Indigenous elders and cultural monitors, the latter cannot come to the site anymore. The SQI insists that work must continue, and that the particular security guard will no longer be present. SQI failed to respond to basic questions about the instructions that were given to their security guards and their identity. Because of the threat continuation of excavation work would breach the Settlement Agreement. All parties except the SQI – including the Panel of archaeologists overseeing the work, as well as Ethnoscop – have agreed to halt the work until the situation is resolved. The Mohawk Mothers have been voicing concerns about security issues on the site for several months, and failed to get a response from the Defendants. They requested a security expert be on the Panel overseeing the work.
84 year old Mohawk Mother Kahentinetha, reacted to the events by explaining that “our law and our culture forbids us from exposing our people to elder abuse, mental stress and physical threats. We. cannot carry out our duties as cultural monitors under duress and the threat of violence. We devoted all our energies to investigating the truth about what was being done to our children at this hospital so we want to continue the work immediately. Our people need answers to our questions about what happened with those security guards and whether they were instructed to use such aggression with us”.
Mohawk Mother Kwetiio added: “It’s common decency to secure the site with a firm that doesn’t end up attacking our elders, alleging that they are unaware of who we are and why we are present on the site. If we had not been there McGill and SQI would already be constructing their vast project on our land, ignoring the human remains that were detected thanks to our efforts and that of our allies and experts. An investigation must be immediately conducted on whether the security guards were instructed to assault us”. For more information, contact email@example.com O:nen Kanien’keha:ka Kahnistensera
This situation reminds us of Woodstock when the Clowns of the Hog Farm were in charge of security. The McGill attacker[s] claimed to be security for McGill and pretended they had authority over everyone.
Here’s some relief from Joni Mitchell singing about “Woodstock”.
Court – firstname.lastname@example.org
box 991 kahnwake [quebec] canada J0L 1B0 for info email@example.com