Kanesatake | The Grand Chief locks up the Band Council

The internal bickering at the Kanesatake band council reached a new level on Wednesday after the grand chief passed a motion of censure to exclude five chiefs belonging to an opposing faction. The tension that ensued in front of the building led to the closure of a nearby high school.

Grand Chief Victor Bonspille, isolated with his twin sister Shirley Bonspille against the five dissident leaders, had the motion adopted by a vote held Tuesday evening, in which less than fifty members of the community out of 2,700 participated.

He claims that the five other leaders thus expelled “reacted by attempting to instigate a form of violence”. Mr. Bonspille then sent all band council employees to work at home and padlocked the doors of the building on Wednesday so that no one would enter.

The situation caused a certain commotion in front of the building. The Sûreté du Québec claims to have gone to the site as a preventive measure on Wednesday, but did not intervene. The Mohawk territory has not had more Peacekeeper police officers since the sequestration of its agents in 2004, notably by brothers Gary and Robert Gabriel, during a crisis which forced the exile of former grand chief James Gabriel, whose the house was set on fire.

Former grand chef Serge Simon, targeted by the motion of censure, affirms that Mr. Bonspille’s maneuver was “completely illegal”. “It wasn’t even a secret vote and only certain groups in our community participated,” he says.

The dispute between the two political factions is not new in itself. Former grand chief Serge Simon, removed from the band council after Mr. Bonspille contested his election in January, went to the Federal Court to be reinstated.

Since then, the two groups have clashed openly in a dispute that has paralyzed the decision-making body. The thorny issue of the illegal Recyclage G & R dump, owned by the Gabriel brothers, and which continues to discharge toxic and nauseating water into the environment according to an investigation by The Press, is directly affected by the hostilities. The federal and provincial governments want to decontaminate the site, but Mr. Simon’s faction refuses to return to the Band Council the title deeds to the land belonging to the Gabriel brothers without obtaining written assurance that elected members of the Mohawk community will not will not be held responsible for the environmental disaster.

Faced with the impasse, Grand Chief Bonspille asked Ottawa, last July, to impose a third-party observer to help him navigate through this crisis, but this request for administrative supervision provided for by law was refused since Band Council services nevertheless continue to be provided to the community.

Serge Simon now himself wants to hold a vote of censure against Victor Bonspille because he made this request for guardianship.

According to our information, Ottawa offered to organize mediation in September between the two parties, but this solution was refused by certain leaders.

The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada says it takes note of the new developments, but did not want to comment. “Since the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake is autonomous, it would be better positioned to answer questions about its governance,” said its spokesperson, Zarah Malik.

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