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Oka, Quebec (Canada)

Laurentides Region

Last modified: 2017-05-12 by rob raeside
Keywords: oka | quebec |
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[Oka flag] image by Ivan Sache, 20 March 2013

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The Municipality

The municipality of Oka (4,678 inhabitants in 2006; 6,721 ha) is located in MRC Deux-Montagnes, Region Laurentides.

Oka was founded in 1721 as Mission du Lac des Deux-Montagnes. The domain of Lac des Deux-Montagnes was granted by the King of France to the Society of Saint-Sulpice. The Sulpicians erected in 1740-1742 the Oka Calvary to evangelize the natives. Made of four oratories and three chapels, the Oka Calvary was in the 19th century the most important place of pilgrimage in the region of Montreal. The festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross attracted in 1889 some 30,000 pilgrims. The Notre-Dame du Lac Abbey was founded in 1881 by Trappist monks and closed on 28 February 2009. The monks established the Oka Agricultural Institute, subsequently made a Faculty of Agriculture affiliated to the University of Montreal, and the School of Veterinary Medicine. The famous hen "Chantecler", registered in 1921, was bred by the monks, who also produced the Oka cheese, now manufactured by the Agropur dairy cooperative. When the local post office was inaugurated in 1867, the name of Mission du Lac des Deux-Montagnes, deemed too long, was changed for Oka, a tribute to the Algonquin chief Paul Oka ("Golden Fish"). The Municipality of Oka, established in 1874, was divided in 1917 into the Municipality of Partie Nord de l'Annonciation d'Oka, renamed in 1977 Municipality of the Parish of Oka, and into the Municipality of the Village of Oka. The two entities were reunited in 1999 to form the Municipality of Oka. - Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 20 March 2013

Description of the flag

Image prepared after a photo was contributed on 20 September 2012 to Waymarking
Ivan Sache, 20 March 2013

The Municipal Council voted in early 2000 a Resolution prescribing the design of new arms for the new municipality of Oka. The arms were designed by André de Pagès, heraldist and art historian.

The arms are "Per fess, 1. A chief azure a mount tenné watered by a span of water azure fessy wavy argent a yellow walleye* natant or ensigned by three chapels argent port sable surmounted by a cross argent flanked sinister by a star argent, 2a. Vert a garb bound gules, 2b. Purpure a fleur-de-lis or." The shield is in French modern shape.

The chief azure represents the blue sky, serenity and purity.
The two mounts recall the historical name of the place, "Deux-Montagnes" (French, Two Mountains). On the upper mountain stands the Calvary**, a sacred site inspired by Golgotha in Jerusalem, the place where Christ was crucified. Tenné [orange] is the colour of the rich and fertile soil.
The water span represents the lake (Lac des Deux Montagnes*** - Lake of the Two Mountains) that waters the region.
The yellow walleye recalls an Algonquin chief named Oka (in Algonquin, Walleye), after whom the village of Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation was renamed Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation d'Oka, and eventually Oka. [Thus the fish makes the arms canting.]
The three chapels are the symbol of the settlement by a human, Christian community.
The cross argent is a symbol of hope and humility.
The ports represent the doors that allow pilgrims to enter and pray. Sable is a symbol of patience and firmness, in compliance
with the Sulpician principles.
The star recalls the old name of the place as a symbol of the Annunciation, after the Mission du Lac des Deux Montagnes was renamed to Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation in 1786. The star reflects the merging of the former village municipality and parish municipality of Oka. Argent is a symbol of hope and renewal. The two former municipalities are also recalled by the division of the shield into two parts.
The garb is a symbol of the primary vocation of a part of the municipality, agriculture. Or represents abundant production. The red binding is a symbol of the farmer's fierce work and his commitment to cropping the land. Red is a symbol of the farmer's two great virtues: bravery and boldness, which are required to face the up and downs of natural environment. The green base is a symbol of land and abundance.
The fleur-de-lis is the symbol of royalty, recalling that the territory was once a royal concession. Or, the colour of the noblest metal, is a personification of the sun, of wealth, force and faith. Purpure represents the establishment of the religious rule and
reflects the grace of God and of the world.

The motto, "Histoire, abondance sont ses récoltes" [History, Abundant are its Harvests] expresses the willingness that has fostered for centuries a community formed by two distinct races, which, in spite of some disagreements*****, never stopped growing together and to created the history of an ever renewed region. The motto represents also the eventful history of the colonization of the region, clearing, work awarded by prosperity and abundant harvests, and achievements; it represents the human being, his faith, courage, offspring, which are fundamental elements for his evolution and blooming within today and tomorrow's society.

The supporters are decorative attributes expressing historical and social features of the municipality of Oka. The branches of white pine with golden fruit ("cocottes") highlights the work accomplished by the inhabitants of Oka, who, from 1886 to 1915, planted some 100,000 pines and firs on the sandy mound standing north of the village. This plantation forms today the beautiful pinewood**** that crowns the rear part of the village and represents an ecological resource for the municipality. The peace pipe represents the relations maintained by the Amerindians and the White for the benefit of the two communities that have been living together in the region for long. - Municipal website

*The yellow walleye (French, "doré jaune", lit. "yellow golden"; Latin, Sander vitreus) is commonly found in big lakes and rivers of Canada and of the northern part of the USA. The fish enjoys cool (13-21 °C), shallow (less than 15 m in depth) water. - Full description, Forêts, Faune et Parcs Québec

**The Oka Calvary, erected in 1740-1742, is inscribed in the Quebec Heritage List. The Calvary is made of seven white chapels, four chapels were erected along a mountain trail representing the Way of the Cross, while another three were erected on the top of the hill. - Répertoire du patrimoine du Québec

***Lac des Deux Montagnes (c. 150 sq. km) is formed by Rivière des Outaouais. On his map drawn in 1612, the explorer Samuel de Champlain named it lac de Médicis, as a tribute to Regent Marie de Médicis (1573-1642), Henri IV's widow. On his next map, drawn in 1632, Champlain renamed the lake to Lac de Soissons, as a tribute to Charles de Bourbon (1566-1612), Count of Soissons and Lieutenant General of Nouvelle-France (1612)., who had appointed Champlain as his official representative in the colony. The lake appears under the name Lac des Deux-Montagnes on the map drawn by Franquelin in 1684, but the name must have been coined earlier, since the Jesuit father Antoine Dalmas used it in the report of an exploration made in 1674. The exact location of the two mountains alluded in the name of the lake is a matter of conjecture. Some say that the two mountains are the two highest of the Oka hills, mont Bleu and Calvaire, while other believe that the two mountains are the Oka hills as a whole and Mont Rigaud, located across the lake. - Commission de toponylie Québec

****At the time, the village was nearly totally surrounded by a sand dune of 30-40 m in height, resulting from massive deforestation. In 1886, big rains caused the partial collapsing of the dune and sand reached the northernmost house of the village. Father Lefebvre, Superior of the mission, organized the reforestation of the dune. Today's pinewood, composed of c. 50,000 trees, is the oldest planted forest in North America. - Le Quinze Nord, 27 January 2010

*****The main "disagreement' was the Oka Crisis, which broke out in summer 1990. Mohawk natives were transferred in the 18th century from the Montreal Island to the domain of Lac des Deux Montagnes but they were never granted property rights. In 1840, the Sulpicians started to sell plots to European colonists, so that the Mohawk territory decreased and became extremely parcelled out. In the municipality of Oka, the Mohawk reserve of Kanesatake covered in 1990 some 828 ha, including 20 totally enclosed plots. Most plots, acquired by the federal government, had the status of Crown lands, thus property rights were still denied to the Mohawk.
A proposal of increasing the Oka golf course and building 60 houses on a plot claimed by the Mohawk caused the outbreak of the Oka crisis. On 11 March 1990, the Mohawk erected a symbolic barrier on the road heading to the gold course, subsequently transformed in a barricade preventing access to the road. On 11 July, the assault of the barricade by the Sûreté du Québec tuned into a shooting battle, during which Caporal Marcel Lemay was killed. The Mohawk erected another barricade on road No. 344. A few days later, Mohawk from the neighbouring Kahnawake reserve (Châteaugay) blocked the access to the Mercier bridge, used every day by 70,000 cars heading to Montreal. Four out of the five barricades were suppressed on 31 August and the bridge was eventually reopened to traffic on 6 September. The siege of Oka ended after 78 days and the surrender - and arrest - of dozens of Mohawk Warriors.
In the aftermath of the crisis, the federal government acquired the claimed plots to increase the Kanesatake reserve, which is still Crown land. The issue of the territorial limits of the reserve is still unresolved, since the maps produced by the federal government and the municipality of Oka are not strictly identical. - Radio Canada, 10 July 2015

Ivan Sache, 17 April 2017

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