APTN National News
KANESATAKE MOHAWK TERRITORY – Drive past Torrey Daoust’s house from the back, and it could be mistaken it for an island. Brown water from the Ottawa River laps at his green lawn about a metre away from a row of sandbags.
“I’ve slept three hours in the last twe days because I’m just worried about the water going up. I have to worry about my house and my mother’s house it’s very stressful,” said Daoust while driving through almost a metre of water in his pick up.
Unlike some of his neighbours, Daoust hasn’t had to leave his home yet. But the 51 year old Mohawk man says that his house is precariously close to being flooded.
“They told us today it’s going to come up another 18 inches [almost half a metre], as you can see it’s going to be right up against the sand bags here,” he said.
Kanesatake Mohawk Territory is confronting what dozens of other municipalities in Quebec have faced in the last week, mass flooding that hasn’t been seen in generations. So far eight homes have been evacuated, and at least 20 more are in danger.
“We’re fighting the clock right now,” said Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake. “We’re working like crazy here.”
Simon said that close to 300 tons of sand has been bagged by community members like 26 year old Anthony Fournier-Phillips.
Fournier-Phillips has been throwing 20-35 kilogram bags of sand on to pallets for two days, and he says he’s starting to feel it in his lower back. Still, he intends to keep at it. He and a few dozen others have formed an assembly line making thousands of sandbags to transport for Kanesatake Mohawks in need.
“Everybody is just trying to help out, get everything out as fast as possible for the guys who are laying out the bags,” Fournier-Phillips said.
The armed forces have been called in to help the neighbouring municipality of Oka, but Grand Chief Simon says they’ve declined any help from the army even though volunteers are getting tired and that resources such as bags and twist ties are running thin.
“We’re not ready to have the army back here, after what happened 26 years ago,” said Simon referring to the 1990 invasion of Kanesatake by armed forces, known as the “Oka crisis”. “We’re doing pretty good, I think we’re doing as good as the army could. I’m really proud of my community.”
While Torrey Daoust is grateful for all the community support, at this point all he can do is hope that it’s enough. There’s no real Plan B if the sandbags fail to withstand rising floodwaters.
“I have insurance for my belongings, but not the property itself, it’s a federal house. They won’t insure it, I have no deed for it,” Daoust explained.
It’s a common problem in many First Nations. Here in Kanesatake, it’s one they’ll have to tackle in the days ahead when the waters finally recede.