The Oka Crisis was a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada, which began on July 11, 1990, and lasted 78 days until September 26.
The Canadian government, since early 1700s New France, had systematically taken lands including a sacred burial ground, from the Mohawk people. The land was first given to the Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice, a Roman Catholic order based in France. In 1869, the Chief of the Oka Mohawk people, Joseph Onasakenrat, led an attack on the seminary to take back the lands that had been taken from them over 100 years ago. The attack proved unsuccessful.
In 1936, the seminary sold the disputed territory to the Canadian government. By 1956, the Mohawk were left with only six square kilometers of their original 165. Three years later, the town of Oka approved the development of a private nine-hole golf course to be built on the disputed land. The Mohawk filed a suit with the federal Office of Land Claims against the development which was rejected in 1986. In 1989, plans were introduced to expand the golf course and in 1990, a court ruled in favor of the development of the golf course and the construction of 60 condominiums.
Out of protest of the court decision, members of the Mohawk community built a barricade blocking access to the disputed area. On July 11, the mayor sent the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), the provincial police force, to intervene in the protest. The SQ deployed their emergency response team who met the protesters with tear gas and concussion grenades in attempts to disperse them. Gunfire ensued from both sides. SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was killed in the fight.
At the peak of the crisis, the Mercier Bridge, as well as Routes 132, 138, and 207, were all blockaded. In August, the SQ had decidedly lost control of the situation and on August 8, Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa announced his request for military support to end the crisis.
On August 29, the Mohawks at the Mercier bridge negotiated to end their protest blockade. The Oka Mohawks, betrayed by the resolution, stood their ground. The final confrontation occurred on September 25, when the Canadian forces resorted to water cannons to disperse the crowd, proving unsuccessful.
The golf course expansion was canceled and the land was purchased from the developers by the federal government for $5.3 million. The Oka Crisis motivated the development of First Nations Policing Policy to prevent future incidents.