OKA – A Political Crisis and Its Legacy

Dr. Harry Swain and
LGen (Ret’d) Kent Foster

From the RUSI-VI online Zoom session held Wednesday, 14 October, 2020 1 PM to 2:30 PM

On July 11, 1990, tensions between whites and Mohawks at Oka, just west of Montreal, took a violent turn. At issue was the plan to turn disputed land in Kanesatake into a golf course. Media footage of rock-throwing white residents and armed, masked Mohawk Warriors facing police barricades shocked Canadians and galvanized First Nations’ peoples coast to coast. In August, Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa requested the Canadian Army to step in. Given this dispute was never resolved and the recent Wetsuweten protests, this is a timely presentation.

Harry Swain served 22 years in the federal government and was DM of Indian Affairs throughout the 78-day standoff and later a director of Hambros Bank, London. Harry will discuss the background to the dispute, how the federal government managed its role, the results, and what it means for policy today. Reconciliation will require accommodations from both sides. Dr. Swain is an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Global Studies and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Administration at UVic. Harry is the author of Oka: A Political Crisi and its Legacy.

LGen (Ret’d) Kent Foster served 36 years in the CAF, commanded the Canadian Airborne Regiment and was Commander, Force Mobile Command (FMC, aka the Canadian Army) during the Oka crisis. He was then ADM Health Protection Branch in Health Canada, Chief Operating Officer of DEW Engineering and Development ULC, a member of the Board of Governors Royal Roads University and is a Past President and Chairman of the Board for the PPCLI Foundation.

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