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National

Developer to return disputed land to Kanesatake Mohawks as ecological gift

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MONTREAL — A Quebec land developer has signed an agreement with the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake to return a parcel of pine forest that was central to the Oka crisis that began 29 years ago Thursday.

Gregoire Gollin says he acted in the spirit of reconciliation in an agreement reached last month and plans to cede 60 hectares of forest known as The Pines to the local council as an ecological gift through a federal government program.

“This is my contribution to reconciliation,” Gollin said in a phone interview Thursday. “Everyone is talking about reconciliation with the First Nations — for our prime minister, it’s a high priority.”

Gollin has owned the land for 15 years and owns a lot of land in and around Oka. Two years ago, there were protests mounted by local Mohawks against a residential housing project spearheaded by Gollin that was allegedly encroaching on sacred Kanesatake pine forest.

Discussions about the land donation had been ongoing for two years with Kanesatake officials and Gollin said he was hopeful the council would be accepted as a recipient under the federal terms.

“It’s a forest, there’s no development possible in this forest, it has a high ecological value, it has a high heritage value for the Mohawks, it was planted by their ancestors,” Gollin said.

According to the ecological gifts program website, owners who donate the property get tax benefits while recipients make sure the biodiversity and environmental heritage of the property are conserved in perpetuity. The program is subject to an assessment process.

“I was in position to have a dialogue with the Mohawks of Kanesatake and we accomplished an agreement,” Gollin said, adding it will now go to Kanesatake residents for consultation.

The donated land was part of lands central to the Oka crisis which began July 11, 1990. Gunfire erupted between provincial police and Aboriginals defending a small stand of pine trees resulting in the death of officer Marcel Lemay and sparking a 78-day showdown.

At the end of it, a deal was struck to bring down the barricades in exchange for cancelling the expansion of a golf course.

But nearly three decades removed from the explosive crisis, the disputed territory remains a long-standing, unsettled issue and development has continued.

“We’ve lost more land in the last 29 years than gained,” said Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist and artist.

She called Gollin’s move a noble gesture, but one that does not go far enough.

“I gotta give my hat off to Mr. Gollin for trying in his own way what is reconciliation,” Gabriel said. “But which I think is really not because there are strings attached for this so-called ecological gift.”

Gollin said he’s also prepared to discuss the sale of an additional 150 hectares he owns in the area to the federal government to transfer to the community — nearly half of which he said is adjacent to land owned by Kanesatake.

Gabriel noted the local Mohawk council hasn’t shared details of the land donation agreement with the community.

Calls to the Kanesatake Mohawk Council weren’t returned on Thursday.

Local newspaper The Eastern Door, which first reported on the offer several weeks ago, quoted Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon then as saying the matter would be brought to the community once details were finalized.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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october, 2019

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