Onkwehshón’a

Bringing the politics back to the people

At Onkwehshón:’a we have a vision to bring back the affairs of Kanehsatakero:non into the hands of the people. The time for governance being reserved to a select few has to end in order for our community and our Nation to move forward united into a more prosperous future.

Onkwehshón’a

Bringing the politics back to the people

At Onkwehshón:’a we have a vision to bring back the affairs of Kanehsatakero:non into the hands of the people. The time for governance being reserved to a select few has to end in order for our community and our Nation to move forward united into a more prosperous future.

Declaration following the people’s meeting

Shé:kon sewakwé:kon, following the outcome of the people’s meeting which is summarized below, the following part of this message is directly addressed to Patricia Meilleur and Serge Otsi Simon. One hundred members of your community have expressed in person, that they no longer have confidence in your ability to carry out your responsibilities of office. To this number is added many more who feel the same but do not wish to express it publicly out of fear for retaliation. The people understand that this is not a binding process but we request that you submit yourself to a formal vote of non confidence allowing all eligible community members to express their position. If you oppose this process, please come to the community and face the people in person and engage in dialogue. Explain your positions and answer to the concerns brought forward in an open and transparent manner.

The people of Kanehsatà:ke want and need change in the way governance is carried out. The process for change to date has been carried out in a peaceful and respectful manner while following the regulations under which MCK operates. If this process fails and it is not respected what are the people to do? Let us learn and move forward, avoiding the mistakes of the past.

On July 22 2020 in Kanehsatà:ke, a meeting of the people was called by concerned community members. The meeting was called because the current administration of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake has not held regular public meetings and have demonstrated a tendency to avoid public meetings. In fact, on the day the meeting was scheduled, the Emergency Response Unit, an entity chaired by “vice chief” Patricia Meilleur, issued an interdiction advisory against outdoor gatherings.  It is also notable that a new lock had been placed on the school grounds, the planned location for the event, gate preventing people who normally could unlock the gate from gaining entry.

At this meeting, discussions were had between community members.

To start off, Robert Gabriel addressed the community regarding the GnR recycling issue. He offered an apology to the community regarding the foul smell that people had to endure. He provided an update regarding what they were trying to do in order to rectify the situation in working with the provincial government to resolve the issues. It was a positive initial discussion regarding this matter.

Second, Wanda Gabriel presented the community with the partial answer we received from MCK in response to the request to information. This information had previously been made public. The update was followed by a presentation by Jeremy Teiawenniserahte Tomlinson on the specific claims process. The presentation was not to provide details regarding Kanehsatà:ke’s specific claim but a general presentation on the claims process. The community members present found the session informative and rather shocking. It generated a long conversation and many questions. Notably community members were very concerned that we were involved in such a process without ever being consulted nor kept abreast for the past decade.

The topic of conversation flowed into what we could do as a community to change how things operated. A question was raised asking the group if they were satisfied with how our community was currently being administered and by show of hands, the group expressed a unanimous “NO”! Some in the group expressed that the “grand chief” and “vice chief” should resign.  The discussion then touched about a vote of non confidence process and how that would work. After this, a motion was raised concerning non confidence against Serge Simon and Patricia Meilleur concerning breaches of their responsibilities pursuant to the Kanesatake Custom Electoral Code 2015. The motion was supported by another community member. Following up to this motion, the group was asked by show of hand who supported a motion of Non confidence against Serge Simon and Patricia Meilleur and the group was unanimous in its support. By this time, the group was still over 90 community members which is well over the normal attendance of a regular public meeting. There were representatives from various families and age groups including voting age youth and elders.

A discussion was had among the group regarding the remaining council members and the consensus reached was that it would be beneficial for the community to avoid a full general election or a political vacuum in order to allow time for community consultation to establish meaningful change to the way governance is carried out toward a more inclusive and people driven process.

It is also important to note that the organizers of the meeting as well as many in attendance expressed that the number who support this direction is much greater than the number of people present. This is due to the fact that many people in the community fear retaliation from elected officials which could jeopardize their employment which was accentuated by the ERU’s interdiction order on outside gatherings.

The people agreed that Serge Otsi Simon and Patricia Meilleur would be served a notice advising them of the non confidence motion which included a suspension of their roles and responsibilities as elected official until such a time as the people had been given an opportunity to decide on their confidence in an election style vote. The notice includes a show of good faith allowing for the concerned parties to continue being paid until a binding decision is rendered. Serge Simon Notice   Patricia Meilleur Notice

On July 23, 2020, a group of community members attended to serve Serge Otsi Simon and Patricia Meilleur with the notice of non confidence. They did not present themselves at their work location and cancelled a scheduled meeting where all other elected officials were present and ready. The group spoke with all the other members of elected council in order to explain and update them on the people’s meeting and the position taken by the people.

John Canatonquin expressed that he would rather resign than follow the motion requested by the people.

Bruce Montour and Garry Carbonnell requested until Monday July 27, 2020 to take a position.

Victor and Valerie Bonspille support the motion.

The following part of this message is directly addressed to Patricia Meilleur and Serge Otsi Simon. One hundred members of your community have expressed in person, that they no longer have confidence in your ability to carry out your responsibilities of office. To this number is added many more who feel the same but do not wish to express it publicly out of fear for retaliation. The people understand that this is not a binding process but we request that you submit yourself to a formal vote of non confidence allowing all eligible community members to express their position. If you oppose this process, please come to the community and face the people in person and engage in dialogue. Explain your positions and answer to the concerns brought forward in an open and transparent manner.

The people of Kanehsatà:ke want and need change in the way governance is carried out. The process for change to date has been carried out in a peaceful and respectful manner while following the regulations under which MCK operates. If this process fails and it is not respected what are the people to do? Let us learn and move forward, avoiding the mistakes of the past.

 

Skennen tanon niawen.

Partial response from MCK / Request ignored.

On June 30th 2020, MCK elected officials were served with a request for information. The request was also served to a few key administrators who would hold the requested information.

On July 14 2020, we received a document containing a partial response in the name of the following MCK councilors: Victor Bonspille, Valerie Bonspille and Bruce Montour. The pertinent documentation is included below.

Serge Otsi SImon, Patricia Meilleur, John Cannatonquin and Garry Carbonnell chose to ignore an official request for information served on them personally by concerned community members. They have now taken a position in which they OFFICIALLY REFUSED to be accountable and transparent to community members seeking to be informed on matters of importance.

As it concerns the information requested regarding GnR recycling, we have received no official answer.

As it concerns the information requested regarding to the ERU financial information, we received the following:

A request for information prepared by a quorum of councilors regarding ERU finances. The request was made because the quorum of councilors have reasons to believe that certain individuals including elected officials of MCK are collecting two salaries. One from their regular employment and one from ERU.

The quorum received a general financial report concerning the ERU. In this document it indicates that between April and May, our community received $727,692.31. From Indigenous Services Canada, we received $533,752.31 there is another amount of $193,940 marked as ACT, this amount is for the Access Control Team but no source is identified for this portion of the revenue. Despite the $727,692.31, the ERU has expended, as per this document, $1,095,690.32. An overage of more than $350,000 in the first two months of the pandemic.

Notable expenditures:

  1. $176,000 toward social assistance.
  2. $51,100 toward computer equipment for education. Although we are not opposed to enhancing our schools perhaps further details would be appropriate to explain the large expenditure.
  3. $8,905 toward jackets for ERU members. Really?
  4. $311,040 toward ACT salaries despite the revenue source of $193,940.
  5. $306,000 toward salaries for 103 MCK employees and contract workers. With regard to this amount, why are MCK employees being paid with funds received for COVID-19 assistance? These funds would be already budgeted in the regular yearly funding. The amount however does not reflect a full salary to 103 employees. Further explanation is required with regard to this expenditure. Some rumors indicate a pay increase for those working during the pandemic but this is not confirmed and several MCK employees have indicated not having received such an increase.

The final two pages are a letter from a law firm sent on behalf of the Health Center and ERU to Serge Simon and MCK. Note that Serge Simon and Patricia Meilleur are elected council members and are part of ERU. The letter is a cease and desist letter pertaining to asking for salary information concerning ERU employees. It states that the ERU has mandated the Health Center to manage their financial aspects.

  • Why is KHC being mandated to manage finances, they are not an accounting firm?
  • MCK employees are assigned to manage finances but are working under the umbrella of the KHC and no longer accountable to MCK? Or the community? Why?
  • ERU is an entity of its own, a non political body as mentioned many times yet the “Vice chief” and “Grand chief” sit at the top of the management board. Is this something the community is comfortable with?
  • Representatives of KHC and ERU have also been served with this request for information yet have failed to respond as separate entities. Why? Is there no accountability to our own people and community? Are the people comfortable with this?
  • Lawyers being paid with community funds to silence pertinent requests from concerned elected officials. Is this a responsible and reasonable administration of public funds?

With regard to expenditures relating to outside consultants, MCK has failed to provide answers.

With regard to the retro pay to MCK elected officials, MCK has failed to provide answers.

With regard to the Land claim loan exceeding $1 million, MCK has failed to provide answers.

With regard to the Land claim process, MCK has failed to provide answers. It is noted that in a recent media interview, Serge Otsi Simon has said that he was not allowed to provide information because it was confidential. He has however failed to provided any supporting evidence to this claim or to support the reasoning behind his open participation in such a secret process. The mayor of Oka has supplied more information to his citizens regarding this process then we have received to date from this administration. Simon also stated that once the process is complete, he would FLOOD the community with information. Does this seem like a fair and equitable process? Do our people feel comfortable being flooded all at once with information with a likely deadline to make such a tremendously critical decision?

With regard to providing pertinent BCRs in order to respect the request and support answers, Victor Bonspille explained that the documents are under lock and key with the council clerk, Christine Meilleur and are not accessible. Despite the fact that all BCRs should be made public and produced upon request.

As a community, we are now presented with, despite the efforts of a few elected councilors, a clear failure on the part of  this MCK administration to carry out their responsibilities as established in the Custom Electoral Code.

  • They have FAILED to exercise their duties with honesty, impartiality, fairness and openness in the interest of ALL Mohawks of Kanehsata:ke.
  • They have FAILED to be accountable to the people of Kanehsata:ke by failing to report to the final authority, the people.
  • They have not only FAILED to allow but IMPEDED Kanehsatakero:non in carrying out their responsibility of assuring proper governance.
  • They have left, at the very least, an appearance of unethical and unacceptable conduct and management practices.

Please take time to read and inform yourselves on these and other topics. Start discussions with family, friends, other community members. Discuss what you would like to see, discuss your thoughts and be open to those of others around you. Share your thoughts with us.

It is our belief that a meeting of the people is drastically needed and hope that when the time comes, we can have a strong turnout to start moving toward a better future for our children, grand children and beyond.

Skennen tanon Nia:wen.

Here are the pertinent documents contained in the response.

Community request for information to Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, Kanesatake Health Center and E.R.U.

Shé:kon sewakwé:kon,

Today John Harding and I, representing a group of community members delivered an official request for information to All MCK elected officials as well as certain other individuals holding administrative positions responsible for some of the information sought. We also did this, in good faith for all community members seeking answers and change for the future. On a personal note I wish to once again express that I am not doing this under any motivation toward political aspiration but rather to carry out my responsibility to our ancestors, elders, our children and those yet to come. One day, perhaps I will meet my great grand children and I will know that at the very least, I made efforts to leave them something better than what we started with. We can no longer continue to operate in the status quo, a system that sees us fail time and time again, a system that sees us divided at every corner. It is time for serious change and I do not mean yet another kick at the cat which keeps us in the same vicious circle. I hope that we can all come together, traditional or not, no matter our beliefs or religion, we have a lot more in common at the root than what divides us. Let’s work together for a charge toward true change.

 
The following are the facts from June 30 2020 regarding the service of the document:
 
At 09:59, we arrived at the Band office where the Tuesday MCK meeting was being held and rang the bell. We were greeted shortly after and explained we needed to see the council and that they knew that we were coming. I note that I tried to get us added to the meeting agenda for a 5 to 10 minute period to present a written request for information. This was denied.
 
At  10:05, Valerie Bonspille came out the front of the band office and told us they were taking a break. I serve her the copy of the request for information and gave a brief explanation. She thanked us and told us that Serge Otsi Simon denied us entry to their meeting but that they would be coming out for break. She also told us that Serge Simon had gone out the side door of the band office for his break.
 
At 10:06, Garry Carbonnell came out and he was served with a brief explanation. He thank us.
 
At 10:07, at the Side door of the Band office, Serge Otsi Simon was sitting on the steps smoking and looking down at his phone. He didn’t look up at us.  I greeted him and he still did not look up. I handed him the document which he was reluctant to take but did. He said: “You Know guys if this is about the land claims, I’m not allowed to tell you anything.” I explained that the document was self explanatory and that there were also other issues being addressed as well as land claims. I said that hopefully they can look at it today in their meeting and that they had 10 business days to respond. He put the document down on the step and continued looking down at his phone as if our matter wasn’t of importance to him.
 
At 10:09, Outside of the Health Center we served the request to Patricia Meilleur, Christine Meilleur, Leona Bonspiel annd Marie-Claude Bernard. I gave  a brief explanation and they thank us. John Canatonquin was inside, I asked if someone would be willing to get him, Leona opened the door and he was sitting in the board room. He came out.
 
At 10:10, we served John Canatonquin with the request for information as well as a brief explanation.
 
At 10:12, we returned to the band office and served Victor Bonspille with the request for information and provided him with a brief explanation.
 
At 10:13, we serve Dakota Simon, president of the Health Center’s board of the directors with the request for information. I provided him with a brief explanation. He was rather enthusiastic and pleasant.
 
At 10:15, we serve Bruce Montour a copy of the request for information and provided a brief explanation.
 
Each individual member of council was served independently their own copy of the request because they were all elected individually to serve the people of Kanehsata:ke and they are each individually responsible to carry out those responsibilities. It is up to all of them to make their decision to answer or not to the people.
 
Please let us know your thoughts, publicly or privately as we know that a lot of us live under fear of reprisal and employment loss.
 
Niawen tanon Skennen.
 
Here is a PDF of the document served for your review.
Scroll below to see the document on this webpage.
 

Onkwawén:na Kanien’kéha. Tekeníhaton Enniskó:wa oié:ri shískare.

Today’s capsule is a throw back to an earlier series relating to who we are, enjoy!

La capsule d’aujourd’hui est un petit retour dans la série du « qui es-tu? ». Bonne pratique!

 

Ónhka ní:se?       (Who are you / Qui es-tu?)

 

Shé:kon, Teiawenniseráhte iontia’ts tánon Tomlinson tewaksenná:sere. Kanehsatà:ke kanà:takon kì:teron. Ónhka ní:se sok ka’nón:we nihsì:teron?

 

(Hello, they call me Teiawenniseráhte and my last name is Tomlinson. I reside in the village of Kanehsatà:ke. Who are you and where do you live?)  

(Allo, ils me nomment Teiawenniseráhte et mon nom de famille est Tomlinson. J’habite dans le village de Kanehsatà:ke.)

 

 

Grammar corner / coin grammaire 

Today’s verb to reside follows the I-Stem subjective conjugation. Le verbe d’aujourd’hui, habiter, suis la conjugaison du radical I.

 

Kì:teron  – I reside. / J’habites.

 

TSì:teron  – You reside. / Tu habites.

 

RÈN:teron  – He resides. / Il habite.

 

:teron  – She resides. / Elle habite.

 

KÈN:teron It resides / (Il-elle-neutre) L’animal habite.

 

Sewenhniseriíohak! Tho ká:ti’ nikawén:nake! 

Teiawenniseráhte

Onkwawén:na kanien’kéha. Tiotierénhton enniskó:wa tiohton shiskare.

Shé:kon sewakwé:kon!

A new format to the language capsule this week. In an effort to offer a better product, I am using our website in order to incorporate sound bytes to help with pronunciation. Click the link and give it a try!

Un nouveau format cette semaine. Afin d’offrir un meilleur produit, j’utiliserai notre site web pour vous donner accès a la prononciation. Cliquez le lien puis essayez!

Oh ní:ioht tsi sattó:kas?
How are you feeling? / comment te sens-tu?
Wake’nikonhráksen’s nón:wa wenniseráhte.
I’m sad today. / Je suis triste aujourd’hui.
Grammar corner – Coin grammaire
Wake’nikonhráksen’s
I am sad. / Je suis triste.
Sa’nikonhráksen’s
You are sad / Tu es triste.
Ro’nikonhráksen’s
He is sad / Il est triste.
Iako’nikonhráksen’s
She is sad. / Elle est triste.
io’nikonhráksen’s
It is sad. / (Il ou elle, neutre) L’animal est triste.
Niawenhkó:wa tá:non sewenhniseriíohak! Tho ká:ti’ nikawén:nake
Teiawenniseráhte

 

Are we facilitating our own cultural genocide?

Shé:kon sewakwekon Kanehsatàkero:non!

For a while now, I have been pondering many questions surrounding our affairs: politics, governance, rights, culture and sovereignty. These are very important topics that should be at the forefront of our discussions. As part of my process, I often ask myself: “How are we sovereign?” “How do we assert this sovereignty?” “What makes us distinct from the settlers?”  The answer can be quite simple: our ancestors were here much longer before the arrival of the settlers! Although this statement rings true, it is only a partial truth. Yes we were here first, since time immemorial, but in addition to this, we had a different way of living, a different way of thinking, of governing and of speaking. The whole truth is that we are distinct because we hold an ancient connection to this land through our ancestors who we are connected to through our language and culture both of which are intrinsically linked. We need not look further than the countless attempts made against us in order to force assimilation and to bring about our demise. The attacks were against our language and culture. To break the ties we held to our ancestors and to this land we call home. Once that connection is broken, once that distinction is gone, our identity will be lost..

It is no secret that colonialism and its genocidal tactics have had a profound negative impact on our existence. Our current situation is a direct  result of this and it has created some very deep wounds. Wounds that we must work to heal in order to move forward and grow.

Although MCK operates under a vail of secrecy and lack of public accountability, we can decipher from the bits of information and statements in the media that their priorities lie with economic development and policing to “restore order” which they believe will facilitate the first. Policing will not solve our issues, it will not mend our wounds or heal our scars. Security is an essential part of healthy living but we know all to well that current models of policing do not bring about the type of changes we long for. Economic development which would bring about more prosperity is a great thing, no one will argue that. The most pressing concern however is whether we can ever achieve security and prosperity while our people are still hurting and suffering from the wounds and scars of colonialism.

When we suffer a cut, we stitch the skin and the wound eventually heals and scars. If we hurt a muscle, we rest it and then work to rehabilitate it. Colonialism sought to annihilate our language and culture and these practices still continue to some degree today. The wounds and scars left behind are not physical but mental and spiritual yet extremely serious nonetheless! Now, what are we doing about this? Why are we not healing the cultural wounds? Why are we not rehabilitating our language to preserve our identity? I believe the path to mental and spiritual health can be undertaken through language and culture, filling the void that was created when these vital aspects of our identity were stripped from us. Reconnecting with our cultural identity can return balance to our mental and spiritual well being. Healthy minds and spirits make for healthier people. Healthier people make for healthier, safer communities and Nations with opportunities to thrive.

In Kanehsatà:ke, our language is in a dire situation. The doomsday clock of cultural identity is ticking. Of the relatively small number of aging speakers we have left, an even smaller number are teachers. Our teachers are invaluable assets of cultural salvation and they will not be with us forever. It is imperative that we act now to created speakers but more importantly that we create capable and willing teachers to undertake the task of language revitalization. We must break the cycle of cultural destruction and assimilation and replace it with a system that will see our children becoming healthy and proud Onkwehonwe.

Investing in language and culture is investing in a healthier, safer and more prosperous community. It is crucial to meaningful economic development in line with our assertion of sovereignty on our homeland. The responsibility lies with each and everyone of us to be the agents of change. Many individuals have already undertaken this task, some have been at it for years. We must however collectively demand that those in positions of influence and administration also afford this dire situation the level of attention that it critically needs!

Why is language and culture not a top priority for the current administration of MCK? Are they blind to the reality we face?

Why does Canada, although superficially, seem to afford more importance to language preservation than our own administration?

Through complacency and inaction, are we complicit to our own cultural genocide? Immediate, meaningful commitments and actions are required. Let’s discuss these issues and work together toward viable and sustainable solutions!

Nia:wen kówa tá:non skennen!

Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and the Mayor of Oka

Shé:kon sewakwekon! During the last month, as we waited for the monthly public meeting that was not to be, we witnessed the ongoing saga between two individuals, Serge Otsi Simon and Oka mayor Pascal Quevillon. It became a media spectacle because they were using key words that the mainstream media would capitalize on to boost their ratings. Keywords such as “crisis” and “Indigenous conflict”, all their reports enhanced with footage from the summer of 1990 or articles with famous photographs. This is nothing new but under all the layers of this media circus lies true issues that we should be looking at in Kanehsatàke. Issues for which pertinent questions have been asked, time and time again by Kanehsatàkero:non to the current administration of the MCK but that have gone unanswered to have been deflected.

Before I go over certain important issues yet again, let us look at this current situation that to me raises even further questions… First is: “Why is the MCK so concerned about Mayor Pascal Quevillon?” Does he hold such an important status in relation to our matters that the administrators of our affairs have to dedicate a large portion of their efforts to dealing with his behavior and comments? After he apologized, “grand chief” Simon posted a video on Facebook where he talked about how they were able to “force” his apology, because let us be cleared, it was forced and this was confirmed by Mayor Quevillon at the municipal public meeting held on September 3 2019. In that same Facebook address, Serge Simon said that because of this “forced apology”, they were able to avert a “crisis” or “armed conflict”. On this comment, I paused, armed conflict? Perhaps I am living in a different Kanehsatàke? Throughout this entire debacle, I and all those I interact with have never felt a climate of rising or imminent crisis… Unless members of the MCK were planning to take up arms??? It seems that the only Kanehsatàkero:non feeding the media fueled frenzy reporting a potential crisis was the MCK.

Now, lets take a minute to discuss the “oh so important and necessary” apology form Mayor Quevillon which was qualified on the MCK Facebook as “sincere”.  Watch this video from minute 18 to 22. We hear in this video, Mayor Quevillon explaining that he was forced to apologize. He clearly states that “grand chief Simon” assembled a group of chiefs that were ready to walk out if he did not apologize. Mayor Quevillon said that ” he too could have assembled a group of mayors to boycott the event but that he decided not to play that game…”. He said in the end that he and “grand chief” Simon have a common goal of “restoring order” in Kanehsatàke. To achieve this common goal, he decided to put his differences aside and make an apology. One is left to wonder what standard of order will be used to restore Kanehsatàke? Will the standard be what the Mayor of Oka feels is acceptable for Kanehsatakero:non to do? Will it be whatever the MCK arbitrarily decide?As the video continues, Mayor Quevillon says that once the order is restored in our community then we can start working on common economic development and provides a quite colorful example. He states that during the summers they often get French tourists at the information center asking to see Tipis and went on to say “Well we will build Tipis if need be!”  But let us be clear, order must be restored before these tipis can be built…

I want to be clear here, I am not spending time on the Mayor’s comments because I feel we need to waste anymore time losing sleep over him. I want to illustrate that like minded individuals make up a large part of the settler population and if we keep spending time and effort working at changing their minds or getting them to apologize, we are losing focus on what is truly important: Handling our own matters, empowering our people and our youth in order to work together for positive growth. We keep spending time talking about reconciliation and harmonious development. I agree, lI welcome reconciliation which is defined as either restoring friendly relations or the action of making one view or belief compatible with another. We have not wronged the settlers for the last 500 years, atrocities have been committed against us. Reconciliation needs to be achieved through THEIR efforts!!! We have been trying and forced to make our beliefs and views compatible with theirs for centuries in order to live in peace… Let us now concentrate our efforts on working to restore our own order as it relates to the business of Kanehsatàkero:non. Let’s do this on our terms and to our collective benefit because the settler’s definition of harmonious development is whatever they deem appropriate for us to do! Their version of reconciliation and harmony is not about righting past wrongs but rather assimilation wearing a cheap disguise…

Let’s keep the discussion and dialogue going to promote change!

Nia:wen kola tá:non skennen!

August 6 2019 People’s Meeting Summary

Shé:kon sewakwekon Kanehsatàkero:non,

on August 6 2019, a community public meeting was held by Kanehsatàkero:non in an effort to promote dialogue and encourage involvement of the people in the governance of our affairs as was traditionally our way. A flexible agenda had been set prior to the meeting in order to keep things on track. This agenda included trending topics of interest to the people of Kanehsatà:ke: does the community have confidence in the current council’s administration; if no confidence, what are possible solutions; and establishing further priority issues for community discussion.

The meeting started shortly after 6:30 pm, a little over 50 Kanehsatàkero:non were in attendance and the following points are notable topics that were discussed during the meeting:

  • On the topic of non confidence in the current Council’s administration of Kanehsatà:ke affairs, the group was almost unanimous in their belief that the community did not have confidence in the MCK. (Note: Contrary to what has been reported in the media and said by the elected grand chief in some interviews, the purpose of this meeting was not to hold a vote of non confidence. This was neither the time or the place to hold such a vote. Such an event would require proper preparation and sufficient time to allow a majority of community members a chance to participate.)

The climate of non confidence stemmed from several causes, notably:

  • The gross lack of accountability to the community with which the MCK operates.
  • The inability, unwillingness and/or refusal of the MCK to share information with Kanehsatàkero:non in relation to the administration of our affairs, the end responsibility of which rests with the people.
  • The serious transgression of threatening Kanehsatàkero:non employed by MCK or publicly administered programs with loss of employment and or disciplinary sanctions when they involve themselves in political discussions or voice their opinion relating to the administration and governance of our affairs. This goes against all customary and traditional practices and is unethical in nature.
  • An apparent mismanagement of the Cannabis issue.
  • General lack of positive progress in the administration of affairs in Kanehsatà:ke. (i.e.: Ethics protocol never moved forward, ethics committee, etc..)

With regard to possible solutions to the non confidence of Kanehsatà:kero:non in the MCK’s administration, a few avenues were discussed:

  • Calling for a vote of non confidence in the near future. It was discussed that perhaps this should not be the first option used at the moment but that it was available and something to think on.
  • Placing pressure on MCK through more community involvement in matters which are of concern to Kanehsatàkero:non. It was discussed that there needs to be substantially more accountability and a completely “open book” approach to the administration of our public affairs. It was brought forward that just today, MCK had made two information releases to the community and that perhaps this could be indicative of a move in the right direction.

With regard to establishing further priority issues for Kanehsatà:ke a great many things were brought forward in the short time span, here are some noteworthy points. These may not be all inclusive and the writer apologizes if any points have been left out, feel free to comment for any additional points.

  • Economic development to the profit of all Kanehsatàkero:non, the need to generate a community income base on our terms. Within this line, the cannabis industry was greatly discussed. Several questions arose as to the inaction of the current administration on this matter.
  • The appearance of suppression with regard to information dissemination was identified as unacceptable. Detailed minutes of all council meetings should be available within a timely fashion to be easily accessed by any Kanehsatàkero:non. This could be done through easy and timely public access at the band office and/or streaming/recording of meetings posted and archived on MCK website for example.
  • To increase accountability, pass on information to the community of regular portfolio progress reports prepared by councilors. Again, this could be done through the use of the MCK website (Short video updates and/or written reports).
  • The restrictions imposed by section 6 of the “custom electoral” code allowing only a past member of council to run for the position of grand chief should be revisited. In addition to this, the necessity of a position of “grand chief” was brought into question and that no elected official should hold any power over others or any Kanehsatakero:non.
  • Kanehsatakero:non NEED to have ALL information passed on to them in relation to ongoing land claim negotiations. The federal government is negotiating with Kanehsatakero:non who are all on equal standing. An elected councilor sitting at the negotiation table serves as the ear of the people who are the decision makers yet the people have no information.
  • It was discussed that people’s meetings such as this where respectful dialogue can take place are a positive way to move toward change and should be continued in the future.
  • A problem was brought forward in relation to the involvement of elected council in the day to day functioning of community programs which already have management in place. Council members are not elected to micromanage programs but rather work with the program managers in ensuring that sufficient funding and resources are available.

The meeting ended at approximately 08:30 pm.

Nia:wen ta:non O:nen ki wahí!

Questions to Mohawk Council of Kanehsatake re: Land issues and public meeting.

Shé:kon, sewakwékon! I hope everyone has taken the time to read the summary I prepared regarding the government of Canada’s Specific Land Claims resolution process. If you haven’t, go take a look, it will greatly assist you as you read through this post! We have two posts on our launch week, the first is the summary I posted and the second, which you are reading now is one where I will share my views on the matter as well as direct pertinent questions to Serge Otsi Simon and the council to be answered at the public meeting on July 16 2019. Note that these questions are some of the concerns that I and many have in relation to land issues. They are asked with all due respect to the members of the MCK as they too are Kanehsatakehró:non.

QUESTION 1 : What is the exact portion or parcel of land that is being treated with this specific land claim?

This is an important question and one that I have asked before and not received an answer. It is very important to know this as the true stakeholders to the land because the Specific Claims process, as indicated by INAC, is one through which the government of Canada seeks a FINAL and CONCLUSIVE solution to outstanding claims by First Nations. As stated on their website: First Nations must therefore provide a release and an indemnity to the Canadian government. The First Nations may be required to provide a SURRENDER or take other steps to ensure the claim cannot be re-opened in the future.”  This means that once a settlement is accepted, our claim to a specific area subject to the process is concluded and surrendered. Furthermore, the process is by their definition: “completely voluntary”, which means that as representatives of the people of Kanehsatàke, the MCK is participating in the negotiation process of their (meaning of OUR) own volition. Although one could argue based on the bias and under handed colonial tactics the process is based on that our hand is in fact forced, it would likely never work in our favor to argue this premise within their judicial system. In summary, a settlement will equate to the voluntary surrender of our ancestral lands in exchange for a financial settlement. 

  • Information quoted from INAC can be accessed by all through this LINK.

QUESTION 2: Is the MCK aware of the special clauses related to specific claims which include land? If so, what is their position? and if not, well… Why? (You are sitting at the negotiation table after all.)

The importance of this question is quite straight forward. As mentioned in the summary, there are special provisions related to claims which include land (Land “return” or funds to purchase land). First: “The government takes third party interests into account and as general rule a settlement which will never lead to third parties being dispossessed.”  Understandable, when looking at the situation with a level of empathy a home occupies a very important place in a person’s life. Albeit, from our standpoint, a clear double standard and hypocritical. Second: “Land transfers can only occur on a willing buyer/willing seller basis. We can buy land on the open market using settlement funds or use transferred provincial crown lands.” Buying land that we once freely used, occupied and benefited from but were dispossessed of on the mere fact that we saw and governed things differently? A pill hard to swallow but one must do what needs to be done I guess. Although perhaps finding the “willing buyer” and a fair market price may be easier said than done, especially given the current political climate in the municipality of Oka. Although, this point, may be the least of our worries… Third: “Once land is acquired, it does not automatically become “reserve land”, it must first go through the federal vetting process which has several criteria.” This third point is quite heavy, I feel I could go on and on about it but let’s try to keep it simple. First we settle a claim, “Hooray for us right?” Not so fast it seems, any acquired land is not really ours, we are still under the rule of INAC and they will decide if the new land can be added to the land that THEY reserve of US, how gracious!! In addition, there is a doozie of criteria contained on what I would call, a not all inclusive checklist which appeared on their website. This is what I refer to as the municipal and provincial consultation responsibility. It now becomes our responsibility to negotiate with the provincial and municipal government in order to come to an agreement so that the lands can be added to the land that the federal government reserves for us. Sounds pretty Sovereign doesn’t it… To add insult to injury, the most notable issue for municipalities is the loss of the tax revenue and In general, under these negotiated agreements, First Nations typically pay the same amount that they would if the land was not reserve land. This means that a negotiated agreement could and likely would see Kanehsatàke make payments in lieu of taxes to the municipality of Oka or any other affected municipality. I say likely would because the village of Oka already receives over $900,000 per year in lieu of taxes for our community. (2016 Oka Budget document). What message does this send? The Kanienkeha’ka people of Kanehsatà:ke essentially paying taxes to a local municipality for land that, at the risk of repeating myself, we occupied since time immemorial. The message to me is clear, we are a level of government beneath that of municipalities, they see the land as theirs to govern and we need to pay them for our use of it.

Question 3: As it relates to the funding for the negotiation process, where do we stand? 

The government of Canada indicates that they allow loan amounts not exceeding $427,500 for the duration of the negotiations which is set to a three year time frame. MCK passed an acceptance to negotiate BCR on May 31 2011, 8 years ago. What has been the cost to date? Do we have loans to this effect? What are the repayment requirements and interest costs if any associated to these loans, if any?

Question 4: INAC states that a communication strategy is the responsibility of the First Nation. They also indicate that they encourage First Nations to report to its members regularly in order to keep them informed throughout the process. Why as this council not provided any information to the people as of now and why are we being told that the government is holding you to confidentiality when they publicaly state the opposite?

In the draft protocol of the MCK, it states that the political affairs of Kanehsatakehró:non are based on custom and consensus and that this governance approach remains in effect today. In a radio interview conducted on the french CBC station on July 6 2019, Serge Simon also reiterates that the MCK governs in accordance with custom and tradition. I, for one, have not witnessed governance in accordance to custom and tradition and this, for a long time. A chief and council, carry a title, not the decision making power of the people! They should carry our words, our decisions, the consensus reached by the people! The government tells you to maintain secrecy? Then ask yourself who you represent? During intergovernmental dealings, you represent every single one of us, from the eldest to the youngest, there are no secrets to be kept rather you are our eyes, ears and carrier of our words.

Question 5: What is the MCK’s communication strategy going forward? (In relation to land issues and all other matters of importance.)

The point above reflects the importance of this question. Open respectful dialogue, participation and empowerment of our people in all aspects of decision making is in accordance with custom and tradition. Not unilateral decision making and governance led by a few, that is the way of the settler. Can we begin to work toward meaningful change?

Question 6: When is the next public meeting to be expected as there are many more important issues facing our community?

If we work together, we can achieve much more. Let us start working our way back toward a political system that encourages participation at all levels. Discussion and dialogue that begins in the home, the family unit and flourishes through the community. Taking back control of our affairs can help renew people’s interest and rekindle the flames of our political strength. It is said that the Iroquois people’s power declined when settler meddling caused us to move away from our “one mind” system of consensus vs a simple majority rule. We may not be ready for this level of operation yet but we can surely do better! Let’s keep the ball rolling…

We are participating in a system that still relies and treats us through the lens in which their colonizing ancestors used. A view in which they believe that at the time they “discovered” us, we lived in a savage state of nature, with no structure, no rules, laws or governance. A doctrine of discovery that they used and continue to rely on in order to perpetuate their control over our affairs and territory. There are no illusions of grandeur here, they are not going anywhere and neither are we. However, I believe it is time that we start looking at solutions from within, build ourselves up as a whole. The settler government owes us more than we currently get, I believe we can all agree to this. However, they will never hand us a miracle solution, it is up to us to build the future we want by putting our minds together as we did for the majority of our history. Empowering ourselves so that when we sit at a negotiation table with the Government of Canada, we do so on terms that are acceptable to us. This will not be easy but it is achievable. The other option? We already have one foot in the door to assimilation and extinction… Do we want to take the next step, or turn around? The choice is ours…

I will not be able to attend the public meeting being held on July 16 2019, but I wanted to have some questions answered. I encourage everyone who can to attend, to participate and ask your questions, if you don’t have any questions feel free to ask one of these if they are not answered during the meeting. Stay Informed because knowledge is powerful and our affairs are of the utmost importance. Nia:wen kowa ta:non Onen:ki wahí!

Kanehsatà:ke specific land claim July 2019

Summary of specific land claims process

The Specific land claim resolution process is on a voluntary basis, initiated by the First Nation communities who wish to participate. The Canadian government describes the process as making right on “wrongs” committed in the past against First Nations people. 

There is a minimum standard to meet in order to file for a specific claim which relate to format of submission, historical report and supporting documents required, etc…  I will note that requiring documentation very often places First Nations at a disadvantage given our reliance on oral history. The disadvantage is accentuated by other factors related to colonization.  

All research responsibilities as they relate to proving a claim rest on the First Nation. In order to substantiate a claim, it must be demonstrated on a balance of probabilities that the government of Canada has an outstanding “lawful” obligation to the First Nation. In a civil law claim, the balance of probabilities is the requisite standard of proof. It means that it is more likely than not to have occurred. The fact that the claim is TRUE has to be more probable, over 50%, based on accepted evidence. 

There are varying levels of specific claims. As it conerns Kanehsatake, we would figure as a Category 5 Claim which is worth over 3 million dollars and/or is more complex in nature and/or require the involvement of the provincial government. 

Specific claims involving land 

Given that our claim involves land, it is important to note that there are special circumstances relating to Specific claims which include land. Notably, land transfers can only occur on a willing buyer/willing seller basis. We can buy land on the open market using settlement funds or use transferred provincial crown lands. 

Once the lands are acquired, IF we meet the criteria established by the Canadian government relating to adding to reserve land or creating a new reserve, we can transfer the newly acquired land to reserve land. There are many steps involved in adding land to reserve: 

  • Environmental assessments may be required. 
  • Interests held by third parties must be resolved (leases, permits, rights of way) 
  • Any necessary public access to the land and public utilities must be provided. 
  • First Nations must consult municipal and provincial governments. 

As it relates to Municipal issues, we need to pay close attention to this given our specific situation. Before lands can be given Reserve status Canada REQUIRES First Nations to negotiate with affected municipalities to resolve any issues. Most notable is the loss of the tax revenue by the municipalities and school boards. 

***In General, under these negotiated agreements, First Nations typically pay the same amount that they would if the land was not reserve land.*** This means that a negotiated agreement would see a First Nation make payments in lieu of taxes to the municipality. 

 A sobering fact: ONLY 0.2% of Canada’s land mass has “Reserve Status”. 

 Time frame 

After three years of negotiations, the claim can be referred to the Tribunal for a binding decision or the negotiations can continue. This is at the choice of the First Nation. If a settlement is reached, the process moves on to implementation. If there is no settlement reached, the claim can be resubmitted with NEW EVIDENCE or moved to the tribunal to decide on the validity of the claim and compensation.  

Cost of Negotiations 

There are costs associated to the negotiation process. At the end, these may be added to settlement. A reasonable portion of the costs of negotiation for claim will be determined or up to a maximum of $427,500 over the three yearprocess.  

Amounts determined based on workplans and reflect First Nation’s Participation in negotiations and/or level of activity required to settle claim. 

Here is a breakdown of Annual Amounts as determined by the government of Canada: 

  • Legal $35,000 
  • First Nations related Costs $66,000 (Costs associated to participation in negotiation (Community meetings, travel, honoraria, etc..)) 
  • Professional Costs $35,000 (costs associated to employing specialists or experts. (Financial Advisors for example)) 
  •  Other Costs $6,500 Commities, meetings, communications, studies, land surveys, environment studies. 

 Loans 

  • Should not exceed amounts outlined above ($427500) 
  • Deducted from final settlement

Criteria for compensation 

 The specific claims process sets out criteria related to compensation given in the resolution settlement. 

  • As a general rule a band is compensated for losses incurred and damages suffered. If a breach by the federal government of its lawful obligation is proven, there is compensation based on legal principle. (As would occur in a civil litigation for example.)  
  • There is no compensation for “Special Value to Owner” unless it is established, based on evidence, that the land in question had a special economic value to claimant (Over land above market value). 
  • Where it can be justified, A reasonable portion of the cost of negotiations may be added to compensation (as previously mentioned). 
  • The Criteria is general in nature. Any amount will depend on the extent which claimant establishes a valid claim. The burden is on the claimant. If there is doubt on reserve land, the doubt is reflected in the offer. 
  • If established that certain reserved lands were taken or damaged under legal authority. Compensation would be payment of lands at a value of these at the time taken or damaged. 
  • There is NO compensation for the forcible taking of land. 
  • The government takes third party interests into account and as general rule a settlement which will never lead to third parties being dispossessed. 
  • If established that certain reserved lands were never lawfully surrendered or otherwise taken under legal authority. Compensation may include return of lands or payment of current, unimproved value of lands. The compensation may include an amount for loss of use of lands in question where it can be established that the claimant did in fact suffer the loss.
  • Where compensation is to be used to purchase other lands. Compensation may include reasonable acquisition cost (Not above 10% of appraised value) 
  • Any compensation paid in respect to a claim shall take into account any previous expenditures already paid to claimant in respect to the same claim. 

Finality and Certainty 

The Federal Government requires finality and certainty as a result of claim settlement. A settlement MUST achieve complete and final redress. First Nations must therefore provide a release and an indemnity to the Canadian government. The First Nations may be required to provide a SURRENDER or take other steps to ensure the claim cannot be re-opened in the future.