Political conflicts are once again throwing the Mohawk Territory of Kanesatake into turmoil. The six members of the Mohawk band council are split down the middle as to which way they want to run the reserve.
One of the heated topics involves the extension of a policing agreement signed between Kanesatake and the federal government.
Sitting on one side are Chiefs Clarence Simon, Marie Chene and Grand Chief Jimmy Gabriel, whom we will refer to as Gabriel’s group. They recently signed a new policing agreement with the federal government in order to insure law and order within the community.
The chiefs who oppose them include Pearl Bonspille, Steve Bonspille, and John Harding, whom we will call Bonspille’s group. These chiefs are angry that the agreement was signed with neither their consent, nor the community’s.
There has always been controversy involving policing in Kanesatake Mohawk Territory. The Kanesatake Mohawk Police (KMP) has been in existence for a little over five years. Before that, the reserve was essentially lawless because the Surete de Quebec were afraid to enter the territory since the Oka Crisis in 1990.
When the KMP was formed, a lot of the criminal element in the territory were upset. Pot growing, amongst other things, became that much harder to get away with.
Bonspille’s group claims to want the police to stay on the territory. Their only concern is what goes into the agreement. They want more of a say as to the content within the agreement, and they claim that the current agreement will not suffice.
From a political standpoint this seems to make sense. One thing which did not make sense is the way in which they tried to get their point across.
On March 28, they decided that the only way their voice was to be heard was to erect a barricade. A barricade to protest a new policing agreement? Many wondered if they were in favor of the agreement, at all.
As everyone knows, barricades are meant to stand up for your rights as a native person against the provincial or federal government or any other oppressor in a time when your way of life, or your rights feel threatened.
Instead of using their political voice while insuring the community’s well being, Bonspille’s group chose to go the wrong way, and neglected their duties as elected officials.
Gabriel’s group was no better; it took a few community members to start passing out a petition before they decided that they’d get on the bandwagon and back it. Why did they not start negotiations for a new policing agreement months before? This is what infighting will do to any elected body.
The barricades stayed up for a little less than a week, and did accomplish one thing. The federal government has agreed to go back to the negotiating table. Although this seems positive, it might be a hollow victory. Will anything concrete come out of it? We’ll have to wait and see, but just by the way both sides went about this whole charade, the people of Kanesatake shouldn’t hold out hope.