|Kahentinetha and Karennatha are part of the group of Mohawks behind the request for an immediate halt to the redevelopment of the former Royal Victoria Hospital. PHOTO DENIS GERMAIN, SPECIAL COLLABORATION|
A group of Mohawks who seek justice suspect the presence of unmarked graves at the site Former Royal Victoria Hospital
'No work until careful excavation'
By Lea Carrier
English translation from the French La Presse
French original La Presse
Mohawks are turning to the courts to force McGill University and the City of Montreal to suspend work on the former Royal Victoria Hospital until archaeological excavations have been carried out there. 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 injunction 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 Superior Court of Quebec to order an immediate halt to the redevelopment of the former Royal Victoria Hospital until the site has been subject to careful excavation.
|PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES|
The former Royal Victoria Hospital
Because the group suspects the presence of anonymous graves in the area of the Allan Memorial Psychiatric Institute, where secret medical experiments “funded by the CIA” were carried out in the 1950s and 1960s.
The injunction request, seen by La Presse, reports allegations that "indigenous and/or non-indigenous children may be buried near the Henry Lewis Morgan swimming pool and on the adjacent grounds of the Ravenscrag Gardens of the Allan Institute. Memorial”.
PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES 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 redevelopment plan for the entire site designed by the SQI. Approved by the Montreal City Council, the project would involve the demolition, construction and transformation of certain buildings, as well as the development of outdoor spaces on the land.
PHOTO DENIS GERMAIN, SPECIAL COLLABORATION Kahentinetha, member of the Mohawk Mothers. "What matters now are the children. We are concerned about children. Not just our children, but all children." -- Kahentinetha, member of the Mohawk Mothers
However, the Mohawk Mothers fear that the work will "destroy the evidence of the unmarked graves of their brothers and sisters, thus depriving them of proper identification, repatriation and burial". They require a forensic and archaeological excavation of the site at the expense of the defendants.
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 precisely what happened within the walls of the Allan Memorial Institute: “I want the evidence, because I want it to stop. I want proof for myself. »
"Proceedings in progress"
This is not the first time that the Mohawk Mothers have sought to stop work on the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital. Last fall, they requested that the terrain be examined by radar. No response from McGill University since.
“We are ready to talk to them at any time, but they don't want to talk to us,” Kahentinetha laments.
By email, McGill University said it was aware of the doubts raised by “certain members of the Aboriginal community” 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 collaborate if necessary so that the necessary research is carried out,” explains public relations specialist Claire Loewen.
For its part, the SQI has undertaken to carry out the analyzes required to identify and protect the archaeological heritage before the start of work likely to affect it. “This work will not be carried out on the site in the short term,” it says in an email.
The public body also confirms that “steps are underway to identify the best approach to shed light on [these] allegations”, all in collaboration with the Kahnawake and Kanesatake Band Councils.
Except that the Band Councils “should not be involved in this file”, believe the Mohawk Mothers. "They are funded by the Government of Canada and are therefore in a conflict of interest," the court document reads.