Meet the candidates in the Kanesatake by election

By Marcus Bankuti

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Tomorrow, January 21, Kanehsata’kehro:non will finally choose the seventh Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) chief in a by-election that has been anything but routine.


The seat was vacated last winter by Teiawenhniserahte Tomlinson after he accepted a job leading the Kanesatake Health Center (KHC), but the September 24 vote to replace him was abruptly cancelled on September 17, leading to battles on Council and in the community at large about how to proceed.


To help you decide how to cast your ballot, The Eastern Door has given the candidates a chance to make one last pitch to community members in their own words.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at United Church Hall and Ratihen:te High School.


Shirley Bonspille

What is at stake in this election?


What I believe is at stake is the future of Kanesatake. Our future generations are at risk. It’s time to make the Mohawk Council accountable to Kanehsata’kehro:non and work together to move forward.


What is your platform?


My platform is to work with the community and the present Council to improve all aspects of Kanesatake; to look for more funding for housing and other programs, especially for our language and for recording our history from our elders, for our education and the teachings of our past; for our land rights to be acknowledged; and to make Kanesatake a community that all members can be proud of.


Why are you the right person for the job?

I believe that I would be the right person for the position of Council chief because I know my community and the daily struggles it faces. I work in housing, and I think I can help with our housing crisis. I am an honest, open-minded, and unbiased person who will treat the community with respect and transparency. I believe I could contribute to making a difference and move Kanesatake forward for the betterment of all Kanehsata’kehro:non.


Serge Otsi Simon

What is at stake in this election?

Our democracy, as imperfect as it may be, is still a more viable option than the alternative, and the events of especially the last five months have shown me just how fragile it has become. We must address the very fundamental issues that threaten it and somehow find a way to re-establish respectful dialog amongst ourselves if we’re to find peace again.

What is your platform?

I realize that I’m just one voice at the table but, using my experience, I can help chiefs that honestly want to improve Kanesatake’s economic, social, educational, and structural needs.

Before COVID hit us, I tried to establish a consultation team that would help MCK get the directives or guidance needed on any given issue from the people, for their benefit and those of their children, so I would like to present this again to the Council.

Establish a youth and elder’s council that could act as advisors on what their concerns, needs, and hopes are to the elected chiefs.

Re-establish links with other First Nations leadership for shared issues through solidarity.

Why are you the right person for the job?

After 10 years as grand chief, I look forward to playing a minor role at the Council table, and at 61 years of age maybe even one of an elder statesman. The First Nations, federal, provincial, and municipal governments know me well and, I believe, respect me for my efforts of those 10 years, which in turn I know would be an asset to the people of Kanesatake and their future.

Responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Candidate Lourena Montour declined to participate in this article.

 Marcus Bankuti is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE EASTERN DOOR. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.


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