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Kahnawake gets guarantee from Quebec that community will get help cleaning up spill

March 7, 2024

APTN News: The grand chief of the Mohawk community of Kahnawake says that Quebec Premier François Legault will be providing resources to help mitigate an oil spill that occurred in the neighbouring municipality of Chateauguay and has leaked into the territory.

“There was definitely a commitment made,” said Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer following her meeting with the premier.

A few hours before the meeting, a convoy from the Longhouse in Kahnawake arrived in Chateauguay, located on Montreal’s south shore, to denounce what they claim was lack of transparency by the municipality regarding the spill which took place on Feb. 1.

Standing outside of city hall, Longhouse member Karihwakatste Deer read a letter to Mayor Éric Allard, who came outside to meet the group, saying, “While it appears as though the incident was reported to Chateauguay’s emergency service by the private business where the spill originated, the municipality of Chateauguay never informed Kahnawake of the spill. Upon inspection, it also appears that Chateauguay’s cleanup efforts went as far as the boundary of Kahnawake.”

According to representatives of the Longhouse and the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, the community only became aware of the oil spill involving a tanker truck on Feb. 9, after a resident reported smelling fuel on his property.

In the letter, the Longhouse stated that it believes that Chateauguay deliberately attempted to conceal the incident.

“Adding insult to injury, Kahnawake is now forced to clean up someone else’s mess without the help of Chateauguay and Quebec’s environment Ministry,” continued Deer.

However, Allard disputed any allegations of concealment and emphasized he was only informed of the situation by the council on Feb 13.

Moreover, he said that they are still unsure if the Feb 1 incident is linked to the contamination in Kahnawake.

“What happened on the 1st was a simple mechanical problem with a truck that needed to be towed. That is why the city’s fire department was there. They did a clean-up. They had a discussion with the owner of the truck and that was it. There was no spilling. They checked around the ditch,” Allard explained.

Additionally, Allard noted that the Chateauguay fire department found that oil had leaked from the truck’s fuel tank and that the oil tanker was empty.

He also said his municipality has been working with the Quebec Environment Ministry and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“I am waiting for the report so we can find out who is responsible for the situation,” the mayor said.

In a written statement, the Quebec Environment ministry told APTN that it had been informed of an oil spill in Chateauguay on Feb 12 and that the quantity of petroleum spilled remains unknown. The ministry said the investigation is ongoing.

Kahnawake’s Environment Protection Department has also been investigating the spill. It ordered the evacuation of one home due to the smell of fuel. In terms of containment, the department has installed check dams in affected areas.

In her address to the community, Sky-Deer supported the actions taken by the Longhouse.

“In terms of what happened … I am sure people were aware that representatives of the Longhouse delivered a message to the mayor’s office in Chateauguay, which was important because we definitely don’t think that they are taking this seriously and taking accountability and responsibility,” the grand chief said.

On the heels of his meeting with grand chief, the premier told reporters in Chateauguay that he was taking charge of the situation.

“I want to make sure that the environment ministry and Mr. Charrette that we first investigate exactly the situation and that we participate to the financing of the corrections that are needed,” he said.

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Marisela Amador,