By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The race for Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is coming down to its last few weeks, and one of the candidates is leaning on her considerable experience and commitment to public service over the last few years, as well as the fact that she was tabbed to temporarily replace the late Joe Norton when he was unable to work in the time before his death last summer.
“When Joseph Tokwiro Norton fell ill last year, he asked me to step in for him,” as acting Grand Chief, said Gina Deer, who pointed to her long record of experience as Chief on the MCK, as an educator, a police officer and entrepreneur.
She’s done it all, and now she wants to lead Kahnawake into the post-Norton era
“I have served the community loyally and I believe I am the best person to lead Kahnawake and to help the community thrive going forward,” she said.
Deer is one of five candidates vying for the top job.
The 51-year-old Deer, who looked after many important dossiers, including relations with the provincial government wants to lead Kahnawake, saying she thinks the key to the community’s success is continued economic development.
“Money is the key. Finances are the key in order for Kahnawake to continue to grow and prosper. It’s very important for us to be able to generate wealth, in order to keep the community vital and develop,” she said.
Deer’s resume is long and varied. More than 10 years as a Kahnawake Peacekeeper and now an entrepreneur, along with nearly a decade on the MCK, along with an important role with the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) make her a great candidate with a solid record of service, she said.
Deer added that she knows she has critics, as any longtime public official will find out, but said despite how you feel about her personally, it can’t be denied that she is a tough negotiator.
“I know I can be an aggressive person and even pushy at times, but I would say to people who feel that way that you want someone who is tough representing you at the table with the provincial government,” she said.
Kahnawake residents will go to the polls July 3. The advance ballot will be held June 26.
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.