Quebec provincial police financial crimes unit conduct raid in Kanesatake
Officers from the Quebec provincial police (SQ) financial crimes unit were in Kanesatake on Thursday morning, conducting a raid and seizure in relation to a fraud investigation allegedly into misappropriation of funds during the pandemic.
Police in unmarked vehicles were at the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) band office and Kanesatake Health Center, and a post on the MCK's Facebook page advised community members to refrain from trying to access the areas.
"The Grand Chief [Victor Bonspille] and health center general manager [Teiawenhniseráhte Jeremy Tomlinson] were made aware of the operation early this morning and are cooperating with investigators," reads the Facebook post.
"It's been a long time coming," MCK Grand Chief Victor Bonspille told CTV News. "Those doubters and those who are implicated in this investigation finally see and have this visual that it's for real and that people are going to be held accountable."
Tomlinson served on the Mohawk council before taking his post at the health centre. He said the investigation began shortly after he was elected to the MCK in the summer of 2021.
Bonspille said that the fraud investigation was opened after a forensic audit suggested potential mismanagement of funds under his predecessor Serge Otsi Simon and his council.
"There was a large push for accountability and questioning of pandemic spending," said Tomlinson.
The investigation focused on the Kanesatake Emergency Response Unit (ERU) that was formed during the pandemic and run out of the health centre with federal pandemic response money.
"There were a few community members and employees who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals that came forward with information and financial documents which indicated some questionable spending related to the pandemic response," said Tomlinson, who served as an RCMP officer from 2004 to 2021.
The MCK filed a complaint for breach of trust with the SQ in August 2021.
The SQ confirmed officers were on the territory but would not say for what reason, as it's an ongoing investigation.
SQ spokesperson Benoit Richard did say the investigation was not in relation to recent media reports about the cleanup of toxic materials from the G&R Recycling plant in Kanesatake that environment ministers and Canada and Quebec have both commented on.
"There are obviously grounds to suggest that an offence has occurred," said Tomlinson. "I'm just happy to see that due process is continuing and being followed by the Surete du Quebec."
Federal public safety minister Marco Mendicino had no comment on the investigation when asked on Thursday.
"I do think it is important to underscore that the elected government must respect operational independence when it comes to investigations of this kind," he said.
Simon said he is relieved the investigation is being carried out and that he believes it will vindicate him of any wrongdoing.
"I'm hoping that Grand Chief Bonspille and his associates doctored evidence to fit their accusation and, in the end, there will be a parade of lawsuits against those responsible for falsely accusing people," Simon told CTV News. "I'm so looking forward to the end of this witch hunt."
Bonspille is hoping the investigation will confirm the audit.
"Everything that I've been trying to get out there is coming into effect. It's all coming out into the light," he said.