Oka Crisis - Immediate Causes

Immediate Causes

The tensions between native and non-native people in Canada have been high around communities bordering reserves, mainly over competing uses of land. Such tensions contributed to the Oka Crisis. The immediate cause of the crisis was the 1989 announcement by the mayor of Oka, Jean Ouellette, that the remainder of the pines would be cleared to expand the private, members-only golf club course to eighteen holes. In addition, he had approved development of sixty luxury condominiums in a section of the pines. As the Office of Native Claims had rejected the Mohawk claim on the land three years earlier, his office did not consult the Mohawk on the plans. No environmental or historic preservation review was undertaken. Not all the people in Oka approved of the plans, but opponents found the mayor's office unwilling to discuss them.

As a protest against a court decision to allow the golf course construction to proceed, some members of the Mohawk community erected a barricade blocking access to the area. Mayor Ouellette demanded compliance with the court order, but the protesters refused. Quebec's Ministry of Native Affairs John Ciaccia wrote a letter of support for the natives, stating that "these people have seen their lands disappear without having been consulted or compensated, and that, in my opinion, is unfair and unjust, especially over a golf course."

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