Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council supporter Colin Martin, in front of some of the Six Nations Police officers on hand outside the polling station on Pauline Johnson Road, says an agreement was reached for the federal election polling station at Six Nations to move off reserve Monday Sept., 20, 2021. (Photo by Victoria Gray)
By Victoria Gray
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND-Six Nations protestors successfully chased the single Elections Canada polling station located at Six Nations off the reserve today after both Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) supporters and police faced off over allowing voting in Canadian elections on Six Nations.
“I hope they don’t come back. Hopefully this sends a message out and they never come back,” Rhonda Martin said after the polling station employees had vacated.
Elections Canada staff set up the polling station at the Gathering Place on Monday, September 20, as they had during advance polling, but Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) supporters blocked all three entrances to the parking lot around 8 a.m. saying they did not want to see voting for an outside governnment take place on Six Nations territory.
More than 20 police officers gathered shortly after, where Six Nation Nation Police Sgt Tim Bomberry told protestors they couldn’t stop people from voting. “They have the right,” he said. “Who are you to stop them?”
HCCC supporters said people could vote off-reserve. Rhonda Martin said having the polling station in the community was a “slap in the face,” after thousands of children’s bodies were unearthed at residential schools across Canada, with many grounds left to search.
The HCCC released a statement on Sept. 15 that said “the Confederacy Council has, and always will continue to discourage Onkwehonwe from participating in the election of leaders from other governments. This a violation of Treaties and commitments to our ancestors made amongst the Onkwehonwe and the immigrants that arrived over the past 400 yrs (sic). We have agreed by the Two Row Wampum Treaty, to never interfere in another government’s, laws, and ways,
the statement read by HCCC supporter Colin Martin said in urging polling Station workers to remove the polling station and all materials from Six Nations.
“This is a violation of not only treaty rights, but our human rights to exist as distinct people,” the statement said.
Bomberry said the police had to protect the right of those who wish to vote.
Colin Martin said it was their job as Haudenosaunee people to enforce the word of the HCCC. “You have to do what you have to do and we have to do what we have to do,” he said. “We are here to do this peacefully. Our whole intent here is to remain peaceful, there has to be an undertanding of who we are as Haudenosaunee.”
After negotiations between HCCC supporters and election staff were held Six Nations Police Chief Darren Montour said the polling station would be moving out of the community. “The people from Election Canada, the staff here, agreed to remove, to move the station off reserve to alleviate any tension.” He said they were finding a new location and will post signage letting anyone who wanted to vote know where the station relocated to. He said he was happy it ended peacefully. “That’s the main thing. No one gets hurt. We are here to keep the peace not to engage anyone by any means.”
Meanwhile one HCCC supporter yelled out, “why would we want to vote for someone who suppresses us?” and “If they want to vote they can go to Canada.”
Elections Canada media advisor Rejean Grenier said Elections Canada was made aware of the HCCC’s letter and had been in touch with them.
“We were under the impression that this was resolved,” he said. “They said they would encourage people not to vote, but they wouldn’t stop them from voting,” he said.
But Colin Martin said the HCCC hadn’t spoken to Elections Canada. He said the protest was peaceful and no one was stopped from voting. “We’re not stopping them, physically,” he said.
Dorothy Patterson, central polling supervisor said she had heard about the HCCC’s statement on Sunday, but she wasn’t afraid of protestors.
“I’m employed by Elections Canada, I’m just an employee who is coming here, just the same as the people who opened the building,” she said. “People can express and feel what they want to.”
The polling station was moved to the Oakland Community Centre on King St. N. in Oakland, shortly after the polls were scheduled to open at 9:30 a.m.
Patterson said they would be up and running by 11 a.m. at the latest.
Pete, who didn’t want his last name published said he came to vote, but the employees were packing up. He said it was ridiculous and the Ontario Provincial Police should have gotten involved.
“The people wanted a different government, that’s why we have the elected system. There are people in countries worldwide who are fighting to express their democratic right to vote,” he said.
He said it’s inconvenient for him because he has to get dialysis and won’t be able to vote until late this evening, if at all.
“This is very selfish of whoever organized this,” he said. Only three people in total had showed up to vote and were told the poll was closed.
Colin Martin said they were there to enforce the Great Peace.
“The chiefs and Clan Mothers have spoken.” he said. “It’s the people’s responsibility. That’s their government.”
Go to Turtle Island News Facebook page for live coverage of the protest today Sept., 20 2021. https://www.facebook.com/TurtleIslandNews/