After nearly a week of frantic sandbagging, the people along the Lake of Two Mountains in the Mohawk Territory of Kanesatake are hoping its enough to hold off the flooding that has decimated parts of southwestern Quebec.
“Imagine the pressure per square foot over here. If this thing were to give out, it would be like putting your finger on a hose, everything would come rushing in and then the rest of the barrier would collapse,” said Serge Simon, grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, from atop a metre high barrier of sandbags holding back floodwaters.
“Thousands of sandbags, lots of man hours.”
Simon said the community has evacuated about a dozen homes that are in immediate danger of being flooded.
He says the community is doing better than what happened in the 2017 floods.
“This place, a year and a half ago, was under what, about a foot and a half, two feet of water,” he said.
The scene in 2017 was certainly much worse, at least one home had to be demolished afterwards.
Watch this story from 2017: Kanesatake hit by rising waters: ‘We’re working like crazy here’
Now that major floods have become a semi regular occurrence, Simon says that either major infrastructure needs to be built, or the federal government needs to allocate money to relocate displaced community members.
Something Simon says, is easier said than done on Indigenous lands.
“Our rights are tied to the lands we occupy, if we get displaced because of climate change, what’s going to happen,” he said.
“We don’t have a reservation B.”
(The Iroquois Confederacy flag flies on top of sandbags holding back floodwaters in Kanesatake Mohawk Territory. Photo: Tom Fennario/APTN)
Simon said long term solutions will have to wait for now.
Kanesatake is not safe from more flooding yet.
More rain is in the forecast, and they expect to be watching water levels for at least two more weeks.
Simon says they have enough sandbags to raise the barrier, but that a strong wind could make his finger in a hose analogy come true.
“With the pressure, with the wind, we’re hanging on by thread,” he said.
To date, about 10,000 people in Quebec have been displaced because of flooding this spring.