Oka, 25 years later: Summer of Living Dangerously

cette-photo-immortalise-confrontation-immobileThere is 25, an operation of the SQ to dismantle a barricade turns to disaster. Corporal Marcel Lemay dies. That same morning, the Mohawks stormed the Mercier Bridge. A simple movement of opposition against the expansion of a golf takes unimaginable proportions. Back on a crisis that has marked the history of Quebec, the photo that symbolizes the findings of some of its key players.

Patrick Cloutier: “I was for the Indians”
The photo is made ​​history. She became the emblem of the Oka crisis. The soldier who is stoically face masked Warrior says, 25 years later, he did not support the expansion of the golf course project.

The Patrick Cloutier’s story is not only that of a face to face history, it is primarily that of a face to face with his demons. Today defeated, he agreed, in a rare interview to talk about the cliché that marked the imaginary, but its trajectory.

“When the picture was published on 2 September 1990, it made me a little velvet, I gravitated on a cloud. But later, I lost my way, he said. I’ve never wanted anyone, as I was not in the original idea: the golf course. I was for the Indians! I spend a lot of time in Nunavut and First Nations, it’s my favorite people. ”

Patrick Cloutier is now 45 years old. On his forearm, he proudly wears a tattoo of the word Amundsen attached letters, the name of the research vessel on which he worked as a sailor for eight years. He left yesterday morning for another mission of several weeks in the Arctic, where he observed the local people.

“It’s a tough people. Even if they are refueled, made in the middle of winter, the coops are empty and they have to fend for their families in an extremely difficult climate. It commands respect, “he said.

The photo of the journalist from The Canadian Press, Shaney Komulainen immortalized the immobile confrontation Freddy Kruger Brad Larocque, student Ojibwe Saskatchewan young Patrick Cloutier, who was then a member of the Royal 22nd Regiment.

“I remember like it was yesterday. After facing the Warriors gang, I feared for my life only for a split second when I had a gun to the head and shots [butt] gun in the body. But after 30 seconds I knew it would be fair to bullying. It was not even a matter of military technique. I reacted calmly bin, he spoke English and I do not. I did not understand what he was saying. Finally, it was an eye soutenage, I never felt bad taking, “says one who was aged 19 at the time.

“When I landed, I had no intention of aggression in the body. It was resolved face to face, him and me. I’m pretty sure that in that moment, he thought the same as me … I was paid, uniformed in khaki. I was there to do my job. ”

Troubled Waters

From May to October 1993, Patrick Cloutier was dispatched by the Canadian army in Bosnia. He returned haunted. “My buddies killed themselves with a vengeance returning from Bosnia,” he says.

After the Oka crisis, the Canadian army has reproduced in painting the photograph of face to face with Patrick Cloutier in its recruitment campaigns. “In Bosnia, there was some young hollering saying they had returned to the army because of me.”

“On the other hand, I think there are probably who returned because of me and lived beautiful lives,” he added, stressing that also keeps very good memories the camaraderie that prevailed there.

Before Bosnia in 1992, Patrick Cloutier was arrested for cocaine possession by the military police. He was eventually discharged from the army for committing a hit and run that has caused injuries while he was intoxicated. At age 25, he even played in a porn film (it only appears shirtless) which caricatured his famous confrontation.

“After being discharged from the army, I spent eight years living the night life on Grande-Allée in Quebec City with my demons. I fell in consumption, it’s easy to go for a solution there. ”

Today he takes responsibility for his mistakes and not blame anyone. “I was quite responsible for my misfortune,” believes one who made two detoxification.

Patrick Cloutier swimming in calmer waters today. For nine years, he has found inner peace. “I’m happy in my new life, I am happy, very happy,” said the man who lives in the Gaspé when not at sea.

It is thanks to his parents if he is still alive today. “They never let me go. Never ever ever. They adopted me, and they did the job until the end. They have always been there for their son. If there is one thing I want is to thank them. ”

On the Amundsen, he also found love. “All I hope is that my life continues as it is now.”

And how does he feel in relation to the picture today? “Terribly better, he said. But with hindsight, to 45 years, what I’m most proud of is to have arrived to fight my demons. ”

“Before I was Patrick the guy in the picture, now I found Pat the sailor.”

Cameron -Daphné
Joe Norton was the Grand Chief of Kahnawake in a decade when the Oka crisis erupted.

Joe Norton: “People were ready to fight to their last breath”
When the Oka crisis broke out, a second front has opened in the Kahnawake reserve, while the Warriors blocked the Mercier Bridge. Joe Norton was the chef for a decade. His calm and composure during the crisis contributed to his political longevity. Re-elected continuously until 2004, he is back in the spotlight recently as Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council. La Presse met.

Q What were you doing on July 11?

R I had to go running when I received a call from the head of Peacekeepers informing me that the Mercier Bridge was blocked. It was thought that something had happened in LaSalle and a Kahnawake resident fled the SQ. I quickly learned that it was actually a reaction to the assault in Kanesatake, in which a policeman was killed. We soon realized that the Warriors blocked the bridge to divert attention and ensure that the SQ would not attempt a second offensive in Kanesatake. Gradually, we realized that all access to our community were blocked. I understood that we were not out of the woods. But I had no idea that it would lead to a long siege of our two communities.

Q What was the worst day of the crisis?

R The incident of August 28, in LaSalle, where stones were thrown at cars Kahnawake families who left because they feared a military intervention. That morning, before leaving by boat to get to a meeting in Kanesatake, I told the board that we could not trust the government of Quebec and the police. But the convoy was held anyway. Our people were stopped two hours in LaSalle, at the exit of the bridge. During that time, hundreds of people rushed to the scene. If the police had not been an accomplice, she would have told our people not to continue, it was dangerous. But she let them go – and cars were bombed. I was in shock. This is the kind of thing that happens in the Middle East, not in Canada. I still can not believe it. People who threw stones were accused, but they are drawn with minor penalties. Even the courts did not care.

Q Your worst fear at the time?

R The loss of lives. Remember what happened on the island Tekakwitha when the soldiers landed with helicopters on 18 September. We had no weapons, nothing, unlike them. But we stopped them. My role immediately, was to place me with other between the two groups and to prevent any loss of life. This has had very little. Our people attacked the soldiers beat them and tried to snatch their weapons. Someone shot in the air and everyone fell. It was a very stressful time.

Q What are you most proud of?

R How the people of Kahnawake have defended their community. Yes, there were armed people among us. But that was nothing compared to our enemy, much bigger and stronger, armed to the teeth and ready to attack at any moment. People of all ages were willing to fight to their last breath. This is what makes me proud. I’m not criticizing anyone outside Kahnawake, but would you see this somewhere else? When you really believe in what you are, in your people, in your culture, in your language, the ultimate sacrifice is to give your life. And people were willing to do so. I do not see many people in Quebec sovereignists ready to do the same! It’s been 25 years, but it remains a strong message of what we were able to do at the time – and that we are still able to do.

Q Looking back, what would you do differently?

A It is difficult to answer, because everything was so sudden. Instead, you should ask the governments of Quebec and Canada what they would do differently. Would you let the mayor of Oka seek an injunction at the height of negotiations between Kanesatake, Quebec and Canada? That’s what triggered the crisis. How does one has been able to tolerate that?

Q What collective heritage Oka she has left?

R The feeling of unity is still there. Those who were there at that time still remember how it was dangerous, but also how people are united. People from across the country, indigenous or not, have rallied to our cause. But since our community has been targeted. We tried to prevent us to exercise influence in the region. Our situation has not improved. There are still a lot of resentment and racism towards us.

Q A strong image of summer 1990?

R provocative pose a Warriors standing on an overturned car SQ in Kanesatake. This image will always remain etched in my memory because it symbolizes defiance against what was seen as an attack by a trained response team and highly qualified. It launched the message to the Quebec government, the police, the courts and the municipality of Oka they had crossed the line.

Q A strong statement?

R There were so many things that have been said that I can not identify a particular! (Long pause.) What remains in my mind, it’s just a series of actions and reactions to defend the Mohawk people here and Kahnawake.

Q Who is to blame?

A I have already said. Quebec, with federal assistance. Both had representatives at the negotiating table with the Mohawks to discuss the issue of land in the pine forest of Oka, who was central to the debate. And they did nothing to prevent the municipality to request the injunction which opened the door to the intervention of the tactical team SQ.

During the Oka crisis, John Parisella held the Chief of Staff to the Premier Robert Bourassa.

John Parisella: “Once the shooting starts, it is not known when it will stop”
Quebec is plunged into a constitutional crisis after the failure of the Meech Lake accord when what was until then a relatively local conflict escalates into Oka national crisis. Then chief of Premier Robert Bourassa, John Parisella will play a central role in coordinating the government’s response to events.

Q What were you doing, July 11, 1990?

R “We were in the wake of the events that followed the failure of Meech Lake, which took place on June 22 I had a lot to do that day, because it was in talks for the formation of the Commission on the constitutional future of Quebec, who would become the Bélanger-Campeau commission. I was on my way to my office in Quebec when the CEO of the Sûreté du Québec, Robert Lavigne, called me to inform me that there had been a raid at dawn and that there had been a loss of life in the police. ”

Q What was the worst day of the crisis?

R “The worst day is probably the signature behind the pine forests of an agreement with people masked to allow the resumption of dialogue. At the same time, there was in Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague a manifestation of citizens who were indignant at the long duration of the barricade on the Mercier Bridge. So on the evening news, we had contrasting images of infuriated citizens and the signing of an agreement with masked people. It’s been the most complicated day because it touched the emotions. ”

Q Your worst fear at the time?

R “We had set a goal, Robert Bourassa in mind, to find a peaceful solution. We did not want a violent confrontation. When the army arrived in Québec, the goal was not to use the hard way. It was much more to create a climate stop to allow negotiations. It was believed that a physical confrontation with loss of life, no matter which side, it would remain in the landscape for decades, if not centuries. It is clear that when the army arrived, there was no question that the forces opened fire on Canadian citizens. ”

Q What are you most proud of?

R “Personally, I am proud to have resisted pressure when you directed us to use the hard way. It is clear that in the polls, we lost a lot of points in crisis management because it has been a long 78 days. The opposition had said that if we wanted to use a more robust method, it does not criticize us, she would understand. The easy solution would have been to do that, but it was very unpredictable. Once the shooting starts, it is not known when it will stop. And with the information we had on how the Mohawks were armed, it is clear that there was some damage. ”

Q Looking back, what would you do differently?

R “Do we did everything to prevent the crisis? We learned that there were shortcomings, we did not feel the sense of urgency that we should have had. Is the crisis could have been avoided? I think if there had been more compromises locally, the answer would be yes. Could it have been done better? It is easy to say 25 years later, but with the knowledge I have now, the approach would have been more proactive to prevent it from becoming a confrontation as we have seen in the early morning of 11 July. ”

Q What collective heritage Oka she has left?

R “This has taught us we do better to have ongoing relationships with First Nations. First Nations do not live easily explainable situations. We saw in the Commission [Truth and Reconciliation] on residential schools. Continuous dialogue is far preferable to confrontation. The fact Oka will be completed peacefully, there is no other loss of life than that of Corporal [Michel] Lemay, it’s something we can be proud, 25 years later. ”

Q A strong image of summer 1990?

R “There is always the image of the soldier facing a Mohawk, because it’s a strong image of confrontation, but it’s just one day, one time event. But most important is that it will be ended without violent confrontation, a confrontation that would have continued beyond the Oka crisis. When there is loss of life, that there are martyrs, one might say, it remains a symbol. But you come out of this crisis without symbols. ”

Q A strong statement?

R “There is no sentence at the Winston Churchill, Robert Bourassa but has often said there was no hero, but not a martyr either. It was a way of saying that there was no loser and no real winner. ”

Q Who is to blame?

R “This is very easy to look back and show someone the finger, but it would be easy and free. During the crisis, it has dealt with the realities that changed from day to day. If there is a criticism to be made of the Mohawk side is that governance was not clear that the decision was blurred. When we thought we had an agreement, someone came and changed the decision. On the government side, sometimes the maneuvers of the security forces were able to arouse the feeling that discussions were prerequisites for an assault, which was not the case. But I repeat, it would be simplistic to point to an individual. ”

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