Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) grand chief Victor Bonspille has called an emergency public meeting as PlanIT Consulting - the firm tasked with running the by-election that was suspended by him in September - has signalled acceptance of a legal letter shoring up the authority of a quorum of MCK chiefs who voted to resume it.
While the agenda for the November 16 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Ratihén:te High School gymnasium has four items, a lawyer’s letter pertaining to the by-election is front and centre.
“He just dumped that (meeting) on us because we sent a lawyer’s letter to PlanIT to clarify the appeals board’s lack of power to postpone the election and get the by-election going again,” said MCK chief Brant Etienne, one of four chiefs who voted for an October 4 BCR to that effect.
Bonspille had argued that the BCR was not binding, citing procedural reasons.
The lawyer’s letter, which The Eastern Door has not seen, would seem to contradict this conclusion.
“It just clarifies that it is okay to move forward, to follow quorum, that we have the go-ahead - just the legal guidance, legal approval, to move forward with the quorum - the document that we received,” confirmed Maris Jacobs of PlanIT, the electoral officer for the by-election.
Asked whether she was satisfied that the lawyer’s letter demonstrates this is how the procedure works, Jacobs confirmed that she was.
A meeting between chiefs and PlanIT was set to take place on the afternoon of Thursday, November 10, although an update could not be obtained by deadline.
“We have questions and details we’d like to cover. We’re proposing a new timeline. If everybody’s agreeable to that and if it’s reasonable, we’re coming up on the holiday season, so we want to keep that in mind as well,” said Jacobs ahead of the meeting.
The September 24 by-election to fill the seat vacated by Teiawenniserate Jeremy Tomlinson, who now helms the Kanesatake Health Center (KHC) as its executive director, was abruptly postponed by Bonspille on September 17 after advance voting had already begun.
At the time, Bonspille attributed the call to the appeals board, which was not vested with the authority to make such a decision.
Although Bonspille acknowledged calling next week’s emergency meeting, he refused to discuss it with The Eastern Door, citing a desire to keep discussions within the community.
“I’m not going to say anything on it because it’s a community matter and it’s internal,” he said. “I’m not going to put out our laundry like the other chiefs have done, so I’m not speaking on that.”
Etienne is not the only chief who believes the meeting is an attempt to derail a decision made by the majority of chiefs, however.
“Emergency meetings have been utilized for either self-benefit, to slander, or to try to change an outcome because there wasn’t an agreement with what the grand chief was asking,” said MCK chief Amy Beauvais.
The other three items are absenteeism at Council, direction on amending the electoral code, and a Surete du Quebec (SQ) fraud investigation update, presumably relating to the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) audit released earlier this year.
“The absenteeism I believe may be just slander. I know he was mentioning that some chiefs weren’t always at Council, but we do work from home sometimes,” said Beauvais.
MCK chief John Canatonquin has been on leave with a dislocated shoulder, although he is expected back next week. Another chief is currently out with a doctor’s note, Canatonquin said.
“(Bonspille) is fighting all over trying to find things against us,” said Canatonquin, who plans to attend the emergency meeting.
Meanwhile, according to Beauvais, the electoral code cannot be amended within three months of an election - and the community is currently “smack dab in the middle of one that’s supposed to be postponed,” she said.
Finally, Beauvais said Council has not been briefed on an update to the SQ investigation.
SQ spokesperson Benoit Richard confirmed to The Eastern Door that the ERU investigation is still ongoing but would not comment further.
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door