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Mohawks are turning to courts to force McGill University and the City of Montreal to suspend work on the former Royal Victoria Hospital until archaeological excavations are completed. In addition, they demand that Mount Royal, at the foot of which the site is located, be recognized as the “inalienable” land of the Mohawks.
“We want the truth. The whole truth,” said Kahentinetha, one of six applicants for the ban against McGill University, the city of Montreal, the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) and the government of Canada.
In their motion filed in March, the Mohawk Mothers are asking the Quebec Supreme Court to immediately halt redevelopment of the former Royal Victoria Hospital until the site is carefully excavated.
Because the group suspects the presence of anonymous graves near the Allan Memorial Psychiatric Institute, where secret medical experiments “funded by the CIA” were conducted in the 1950s and 1960s.
The ban request, viewed by The pressreports allegations that “Aboriginal and/or non-Aboriginal children may be buried near the Henry Lewis Morgan Pool and in the adjacent grounds of the Ravenscrag Gardens at the Allan Memorial Institute”.
Located at the foot of Mount Royal, the former Royal Victoria Hospital is undergoing a makeover. McGill University’s “New Vic” project is part of a site-wide redevelopment plan designed by the SQI. The project, approved by the Montreal City Council, includes the demolition, construction and transformation of certain buildings, as well as the development of outdoor spaces on land.
however, the Mohawk Moms fear the works “will destroy evidence of their siblings’ unmarked graves, depriving them of proper identification, repatriation and burial”. They require a forensic and archaeological excavation of the site at the expense of the suspects.
What matters now is the children. We worry about children. Not just our children, but all children.
Kahentinetha, member of the Mohawk Mothers
Last summer, she watched in horror as hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered near former Indian residential schools across Canada. Now she wants to know exactly what happened inside the walls of the Allan Memorial Institute: “I want the proof, because I want it to stop. I want proof for myself. †
“Procedures in progress”
This isn’t the first time the Mohawk mothers have attempted to halt work on the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital. Last autumn they requested a radar survey of the site. Since then, no response from McGill University.
“We are always ready to talk to them, but they don’t want to talk to us,” complains Kahentinetha.
McGill University said by email it was aware of “certain members of the Aboriginal community” doubts about “the possible presence of unidentified graves in certain parts of the site of the former hospital”.
“We have made a commitment to representatives of governments and Aboriginal communities to work together as necessary so that the necessary investigations are carried out,” explains public relations specialist Claire Loewen.
The SQI, for its part, is committed to carrying out the analyzes necessary to identify and protect the archaeological heritage before starting work that may affect it. “These activities will not be carried out on the site in the short term”, the company said in an email.
The government agency also confirms that “steps are being taken to determine the best approach to shed light on” [ces] allegations”, all in conjunction with the Kahnawake and Kanesatake Band Councils.
Except the Band Councils “shouldn’t be involved in this dossier,” the Mohawk Mothers say. “They are funded by the government of Canada and therefore have a conflict of interest,” the court document reads.
Faced with the urgency to act, they are asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction pending the request for a permanent ban, which could take months to be heard. There will be a hearing on May 30.
The City of Montreal declined to comment on the file.
“This is our country”
At the heart of their request, the Mohawk mothers request the Court to declare that Mount Royal is the “unalienable land of the kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk)” and thus McGill University, the City of Montreal and the SQI have illegally acquired Aboriginal property.
“The most important thing is: this is our country. They never had our permission,” says Kahentinetha. “They want proof that there are bodies. We want proof that they bought the land,” added Karennatha, also involved in the application.
In its long list of demands, the group also demands that the Canadian government’s participation in the “crimes against humanity” committed by the CIA at the Allan Memorial Institute be recognized and that all documents relating to medical experiments on Aboriginal people be made public.
More information user manual
- Searches near at least nine former Indian residential schools have uncovered more than 1,300 possible unmarked graves as of October 2021.
Source: RADIO CANADA