(Marisela Amador The Eastern Door)
Two dozen community members showed up at the Golden Age Club for Candidates Night on Wednesday evening, for the one vacant spot left open after Carl Horn resigned last month.
Earlier in the day, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) released the official candidates list for the 2019 MCK by-election after a vetting process that included a vigorous background check conducted by the Kahnawake Peacekeepers, the Court of Kahnawake and the Office of the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake Registry.
The official candidates are: Angie Whitebean Brascoup, Cody Diabo, Keith McGregor, Robert “Bobby” Patton Jr. and Tonia Williams.
The night started with an announcement by electoral officer Angus L. Montour, confirming that all candidates present had met the eligibility criteria as per the Kahnawake Election Law, and thus their nominations where officially accepted.
First up was Williams, who focused on her many years of experience working in community-oriented projects.
“Community life meant a lot to me, to come back and dedicate my career and my education and to helping our community grow. I came back in 2000 and I worked for council on and off for about 19 years. I work in the QKR and CKR political agreement packages including justice, environment and subsidized daycare,” said Williams.
“I worked for the collective impact group where we strategize about what community problems were and what can we do to make them better and one of my ideas was to have a mentorship for education,” she said.
Williams’ written statement to The Eastern Door before Candidates Night also highlighted her education and experience in governance development and her work throughout the years in different boards and committees.
Next up was Whitebean Brascoup, who spoke about her devotion to her children, grand-children and the youth in Kahnawake.
“I started out as a mother, a fan, to a team manager of multiple teams at once to a Lacrosse board member. I am a strong believer in helping our youth in Kahnawake. I also fundraise for multiple organizations in town. My main concern is for our children’s future,” she said.
In her written statement to TED, Whitebean Brascoup said that she would like to do more for Kahnawake and that she has always gone above and beyond to help people in the community.
Diabo, who just like Williams and Patton has run for council before, said his focus remains on sustainability.
“I worked as a Peacekeeper during my 20s and for the past three years I have been working at Kateri Hospital as a security guard. My focus was and still is on long-term self-sustainability. I mentioned my idea to begin a communal farming industry and to start our own clean energy power grid. These initiatives will not only create much needed jobs with benefits for the community but also increase the quality of life,” said Diabo.
Diabo’s written statement to TED mentioned the same goals.
Patton started his speech by saying that it had been a difficult decision to run for council again.
“After many years of policing I got to see what our community needs, the needs of our people, the needs of our youth and our elders. My heart is in the right place for our community because I will listen to everybody,” he said.
Patton’s written statement centered more on his previous work experience in council. “I feel I would be a great candidate as I have experience working as a chief previously. I do know the stress and commitment it takes to work for our community and many levels with outside governments and also with our local community members,” it reads.
And finally it was first-time candidates McGregor’s turn at the podium.
“I work with the Kahnawake Medical Transport and the fire hall as a first responder and help people get around when they need it. I think I make a good candidate because I want to help this community as much as it has helped me in the past,” he said
His written statement was very similar to his speech during Candidates Night.
After all five candidates had their turn at the podium; Montour announced a question and answer period.
The first question was for Patton. The community member asked him to give some examples of community needs he had referred to in his speech.
Patton mentioned education, the youth, elders and the need to support and build up young athletes in the community.
Someone asked about the state of the language in Kahnawake and all five candidates admitted that their knowledge of Kanien’kéha was limited, but said that it was for that same reason that they are committed to strengthening the language and culture in the community.
MCK chiefs Kahsennenhawe Sky Deer and Clinton Phillips asked the candidates about their general knowledge of politics and specifically about Bill S-3.
Some of the candidates admitted to not knowing much about the general state of political affairs in Canada nor of Bill S-3, but said that they were more than willing to educate themselves in order to serve the community better.
Other candidates did not answer the question.
Regarding Bill S-3 Williams said, “The idea has always been to wipe us away… to get rid of the Indians from the Canadian landscape. Canada has got to stop making Indians.”
Where would you put a farm for sustainability in the community, a woman asked Diabo.
Diabo did not have a concrete answer, but said that leasing community land on a voluntary basis could be an option.
Nearing the end of Candidates Night, someone asked the candidates about their opinions on banishment.
All of the candidates were very careful in answering such a controversial question. But the consensus was that they believe people can change. Most were apprehensive with the idea of banishment.
“I have had the pleasure of seeing people change,” said Williams.
Patton was the only one who was open to the idea of banishment and said that if they were to happen “the community needs to come together and set guidelines,” said Patton.
“I personally don’t think that’s a nice thing to do,” said McGregor.
When the unofficial nominee list was released on October 5, Nihawenna:a McComber was on it. But following the vetting process he was disqualified.
On Wednesday, McComber got a hand delivered letter from Montour stating that a legal antecedent in his file was the reason for the ineligibility.
“Section 12.1 (h) of the Kahnawake Election Law states that the six-year ineligibility period commences only after the sentence has been served in full. Therefore, you would only be eligible to run as council chief after the date March 7, 2023,” the letter reads.
McComber’s lawyer is currently reviewing everything and an appeal is most likely going to be filed at the Kahnawake court.
The MCK by-election will be on October 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Karonhianónhnha School gym. An advance poll for those registered will be held on October 12 at the Golden Age Club.