Mohawk council divisions may complicate toxic dump cleanup in Kanesatake, Que.
There is a divide at the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake that seems bound to complicate the process of cleaning up a toxic dump that has the potential to hurt the wider environment north of Montreal.
A dispute between Council Grand Chief Victor Bonpsille and Chief Valerie Bonspille, and four other chiefs in the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community is putting the community and surrounding municipalities' health and welfare at risk, the grand chief says.
Bonspille said in a news release that he met with the owners of G&R Recycling (Gary and Robert Gabriel) to transfer the privately owned land in question to the community so the cleanup process can continue, but that the process stalled.
"Shortly after that, I received a BCR (Band Council Resolution) stripping me from all of my duties as grand chief and spokesperson," Bonspille wrote in a news release. "This is totally illegal and unconstitutional; it's a trash BCR that doesn't hold water."
The resolution in question accuses the Bonspilles of "bullying" and creating a "toxic work environment" and was produced by four other chiefs on council: John Canatonquin, Brant Etienne, Amy Beauvais, and former grand chief Serge Otsi Simon.
Chief Denise David did not sign the resolution.
The resolution calls for Victor and his sister Valerie to be removed as spokespeople for the council, saying they do not "have any intention of cooperating with the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake in a manner conducive to the tenets of good governance."
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The grand chief said the resolution is an attempt to "usurp" power and "silence" Bonspille, who initiated a fraud investigation into Simon and the other chiefs for alleged financial mismanagement during the COVID-19 pandemic response.
"They will never silence me," Bonspille wrote. "The four chiefs are like animals in a corner and will do anything and everything to try and make this go away!"
TOXIC DUMP LAND TRANSFER
Bonspille's letter says that the four chiefs are holding up the land transfer process by keeping documents needed to transfer the land from the Gabriel brothers to Kanesatake.
Simon told CTV News the four chiefs are holding the vital documents and will release them when the entire council and Quebec and Canadian governments are "at the table" to discuss how to deal with the overall issue of toxic land in Kanesatake, not just the one dump site.
"You look at the vital issue that G&R brings us," said Simon. "Isn't it worth a week or two to do our due diligence so that the community doesn't pay for it down the line."
Etienne said that council needs to develop an agreement with both Quebec and Canada for protection before it can proceed with any land transfer.
"Kanesatake cannot afford the potential lawsuits we would be responsible for if it goes through without an agreement in place beforehand," he said.
Bonspille said Simon and the other chiefs are "playing politics with people's lives" by trying to take away his voice "instead of looking after the health and welfare of the community."