Montréal Contre-information
Montréal Contre-information
Montréal Contre-information
Oct 222022

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

We are settler anarchists acting independently in solidarity with the Kanien’kehà:ka Kahnistensera. We support the Mohawk Mothers strong opposition to the New Vic renovation project. Our action is an artistic intervention that seeks to amplify the dire consequences of McGill’s current approach to the area; that is, covering up possible evidence of unmarked graves and ancestral sites of the Rotino’shonni people.

We decided to act because we oppose the settler colonial state and the grotesque society that exists in this colonial context. We want to make it very clear that we planned and carried out this action completely independently of the Kahnistensera and did not communicate with them about it in any way.

The Kanien’kehà:ka Kahnistensera (known in English as the Mohawk Mothers), a group of women from the Mohawk communities of Kahnawake and Kanehsatake, are considered progenitors of the Kanienke’hà:ka nation, and the sovereign caretaker of the land and the soil, including Tiohtiá:ke (so called Montreal). They have been resisting the New Vic Project for more than a year. They are currently engaged in a court case against McGill and the SQI (Société québécoise des infrastructures), who are behind the renovation project. Their next court date, October 26th, is fast approaching.

This specific site, the grounds around the Allen Memorial and the Royal Victoria, is very likely to contain unmarked graves of victims, many of whom were Indigenous children, from the MK-Ultra psychiatric torture experiments that happened at the hospital. These experiments were conducted by the CIA and funded by the Canadian government. Over the past year, across the so-called Canada, Indigenous people have demanded the investigation of unmarked graves at colonial institutions, such as the residential schools. In spite of this, McGill refuses to respect this broader political context surrounding their planned New Vic renovations.

For these reasons, we chose an artistic intervention at the suspected gravesite. We arranged childrens’ shoes and clothing, assembled tombstones labelled “unknown” with flowers, and lined the area with “crime scene” tape because McGill and Arkéos are actively going against the kaia’nereh’ko:wa (Great Law) by digging up potential unmarked graves against the Kahnistensera’s wishes. This space should be considered as the crime scene that it is.

These children should have been allowed to grow out of these shoes, and to remain within their communities where they belong. We want these material items to invoke the lost relationships and the open wounds that remain when any family member goes missing. We want to honour the possibility that there are potentially buried bodies that need the proper care and attention so they can rest peacefully. We want the broader communities of Kahnawake and Kanesatake to be able to tend to such bodies in their diverse and proper ways. More so, we chose this intervention to remind McGill, Arkéos, and the public at large that there are so many unknown factors at play that an intrusive dig set to be completed within 5 days is completely careless and outrageous.

The Kahnistensera have explicitly demanded the following: 1) McGill University must stop the New Vic’s renovations, 2) The Kahnistensera must be overseeing searches, including an non-intrusive forensic investigation of the grounds of the Allen Memorial and the Royal Victoria to locate possible unmarked graves of victims from the MK-Ultra experiments, along with 3) a proper non-intrusive investigation of Rotino’shonni archeological sites known to be in that area. There is no excuse for McGill to refuse to hear and comply with the Kahnistensera’s demands. 

The potential for unmarked graves of Indigenous children and adults is a harrowing ordeal. McGill and Arkéos (the firm hired by McGill to conduct the investigation) have demonstrated contempt and disregard for the Kahnistensera’s demands. The so-called archeological inquiry taking place at this very moment goes against these demands, and risks destroying evidence. Both McGill and Arkéos need to be held accountable for this, as well as for the rest of their shameful history.

Arkéos, the company conducting the work, isn’t equipped to do this type of forensic investigation. They haven’t even discussed with the Kahnistensera before planning or starting the digging. However, this isn’t very surprising considering the previous collaborations that Arkéos has had with other violent, colonial projects with extractive companies and the state. McGill, having been built on white supremacist foundations and with the profits made from the slave trade and stolen Rotino’shonni Trust Fund money, has nothing to show for conscience as they shamelessly move forward with this project while knowing that children’s bodies who were scooped from the arms of their mothers are lying underground. Their work must be stopped immediately.

We also want to empasize that Kanien’kehà:ka sovereignty on this land goes well beyond this current campaign. Some land acknowledgment in McGill’s official communication is not enough. We support the Kahnistensera’s broader vision of a university which has been renamed to not pay homage to James McGill, a colonial slaveholder. We also agree with the Kahnistensera that McGill should at the very least repay its financial debts to the Rotino’shonni peoples, and stop all military research, in accordance with the Kaia’nereh’ko:wa.

We hope that this action, as only one humble portion of this ongoing struggle, reminds McGill, Arkéos and those who collaborate with them in this unacceptable colonial desecration that they must stop the digging immediately and cooperate fully with the Kahnistensera’s demands. Once again, we want to make it very clear that we planned and carried out this action completely independently of the Kahnistensera and did not communicate with them about it in any way.​​​​​​​ There is very little time to stop Arkéos from completing these senseless acts of violence, it remains urgent for independent groups to use a diversity of tactics to discourage them while respecting the Kaianereh’kowa (the Great Law of Peace).