Current Problems

Sports and Reconciliation (87-91)

Montréal Canadians controversial Land Acknowledgement

October 24, 2021

MToronto Star – The Montreal Canadians Land Acknowledgement preceding a hockey game “that’s launched hysterical editorials, hours of inane talk radio chatter and the interference of Quebec’s populist right wing government. What’s so offensive? That the Canadiens are insinuating Tiohtià:ke (Montreal) is unceded Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory.”

According to the nationalist school of Quebec history, when Champlain explored the area in 1603, no trace of the community Cartier described – in 1535 – was found. The island was claimed to be uninhabited—Terra Nullius—and thus free for the taking. Similarly, when de Maisonneuve founded Ville Marie in 1642, no trace of Hochelaga could be found, and so it was presumed the island was free for the French to colonize.

Apparently, it’s drawing the connection between extant Indigenous communities and unceded territory in the more public realm of a Montreal Canadiens hockey game that is a step too far. Quebec’s non-Indigenous Indigenous Affairs minister, Ian Lafrenière’s overly cautious (and inconsistent) approach to historical accuracy is laughably lopsided given it is only the Kanien’kehá:ka claim to the land that apparently deserves greater scrutiny and not the ludicrous assertion an island dotted with Indigenous burial sites could be considered a ‘no man’s land’ ripe for the picking. It isn’t conclusively proven that the people of Hochelaga are the direct ancestors of the Kanien’kehá:ka, but it is a safe bet the Kanien’kehá:ka are more closely related to the Hochelagans than certainly anyone of Euro-Canadian ancestry. 


That a seemingly innocuous land acknowledgement could create such a firestorm speaks volumes about how dangerous nationalist sentiments can become. Hochelaga (Montreal) was not the only place where Indigenous people in Québec lived but the concept of terra nullius knows no boundaries not only in Quebec but in every other province and territory where federal and provincial governments refuse to acknowledge the existence of Indigenous laws and legal traditions and methods of governance. After all the concept of terra nullius gives them the justification to ignore treaties and “unceded” territory and enforce a Eurocentric view of ownership that overrides Indigenous views of land and responsibility.No wonder the AFN-QL warn about the dangers of the Québec’s governments revision of the Ethics and Religious Culture course offered to secondary school students to advance “Québec citizenship” as the primary focus. As AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard points out,” That the rights of the “Quebec nation” in terms of culture, language and heritage are superior to those of other nations who share the territory and that this national supremacy is legitimate… There are other ways to build national pride.”