Former grand chief of Kanesatake calls on judge to invalidate 'corrupt' decision to overturn election results
The former Grand Chief of the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) Council of Kanesatake is asking a federal judge to invalidate what he calls a "corrupt" decision to overturn the results of a recent byelection.
Current council Grand Chief Victor Bonspille defeated Serge Otsi Simon in the 2021 council elections, ending Simon's decade-long reign as the top figure of the local council.
On Jan. 21, Simon ran again, this time in a byelection for the role of council chief, and was elected to replace Jeremy Tomlinson, who resigned last year. Simon defeated the grand chief's sister, Shirley Bonspille.
"I clearly won by a fairly respectable margin," Simon said in an interview with CTV News, "but 30 days went by and the Appeals Board decided after 30 days that they were going to toss out the results of the election, saying that the electoral officer did not follow the code."
On Feb. 15, the Appeals Board deemed the election invalid "due to irregularities of the process and has flagrantly violated the democratic process of the Mohawks of Kanesatake and its entire membership."
"I'm going to federal court to overturn this corrupt decision," Simon said.
"This was a decision I was fully expecting eventually. I never thought they would go this far, though. You look at this whole mess; it really is a personal bias against me back when I was grand chief, and it just followed through with this byelection," he added.
In a federal court filing, Simon alleges the Appeal Board decision was “agenda-driven” and accuses the board of "acting in collusion with and with the purpose of furthering the interests of (Simon's) political opponents, notably Grand Chief Victor Bonspille, and his sisters Chief Valerie Bonspille and the respondent Shirley Bonspille."
According to documents reviewed by CTV News, Shirley Bonspille wrote to the Appeals Board claiming a number of irregularities, including a lack of communication confirming the election date, not receiving an electors' list, and not disqualifying Simon for attacking the grand chief in an open letter in January.
An investigation by the Appeals Board later found "the byelection was determined on a very flawed process, resulted in negligence of due process."
The consulting and communications firm PlanIT, based in Kanesatake's sister community of Kahnawake, ran the elections. The firm declined to comment, citing the legal proceedings.
Simon wants the board’s decision quashed under the Federal Courts Act and to be given his seat at the council table.
"It throws the whole process, which is already teetering on the verge, right into a lot of distrust, and, basically, people don't have much faith in it as it is, but then you add this," he said.
He also wants tighter regulations about family relations on council.
"When you have these close family ties or interests in governance, it's not good for the community," Simon said. "Really, it's terrible."
Grand Chief Bonspille did not respond to CTV News requests for comment.