The recent start of archeological investigations conducted at the site for McGill’s “New Vic Project” has resulted in acts and demonstrations in solidarity for the kanien’kehá:ka kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers). Last March, the Mohawk Mothers began the process of suing the University and the Canadian government in an effort to halt plans to convert the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) into a new research and teaching facility. The Mohawk Mothers believe that the site of the former hospital contains unmarked Indigenous graves, namely ones from the MK-Ultra experiments that occurred in the 1950s and 60s. Despite the promise from the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) that they would not start the archaeological investigation of the site until “information meetings” were completed, the archeological survey of the site began by the McGill-hired archeological firm Arkéos. A settler anarchist group occupied the site on October 10 in support of the Mohawk Mothers, however they were evicted by police the following day.
On October 16, the Mohawk Mothers wrote that the SQI reported to the Judge that the offices of Arkéos were vandalized by a group attributing their actions as being on behalf of the Mohawk Mothers. The Mohawk Mothers deny knowledge of this action, stating: “As the plaintiffs in this matter[,] we are being falsely considered as prime suspects in organizing these actions, thus risking police searches and prosecution, even though we have absolutely nothing to do with any of this.”
Divest McGill held an anti-colonial vigil on October 17 at the McTavish step in support of the Mohawk Mothers. At the vigil, members and supporters of Divest walked to and gathered at the gate of the entrance of the RVH site. They read passages of Indigenous and anti-colonial literature, with the group saying their aim was to reflect on the role McGill has played – and continues to play – in colonial violence. Candles were placed outside the gated entrance to commemorate the Indigenous graves and to block workers at the site from accessing their cars. However, these candles were “shamelessly kicked aside and stomped on” by militarized police officers carrying batons. Divest adds that the police response to the vigil was “frankly absurd considering the size of the group present.”
Time is running out as the hearing to block the New Vic Project is set to take place on October 26. The Mohawk Mothers claim they appreciate tokens of solidarity and demonstrations, but they address these demonstrations in the context of the upcoming hearing, writing: “ we ask you to be mindful of the dire legal repercussions for us, and the high risk of jeopardizing all the work we have invested for more than one year to obtain an injunction, which could be ruined, as well as the hope of our families to know the truth and get justice.”