By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Aboriginal Affairs is refusing to recognize the results of a June 15 referendum vote in Kanesatake which turfed four councillors from office.
In an email sent on Aboriginal Day, Luc Dumont, the department’s director general for Quebec, said Ottawa would ignore the referendum’s outcome and continue to recognize the Mohawk band council initially elected in August 2011.
“In light of the conflicting governance information received by (the department) we advise that we will maintain the status quo,” wrote Dumont, in the email dated last Friday.
Kanesatake was the epicentre of the Oka crisis in 1990 and sits just west of Montreal.
The referendum was called by Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon who wanted to wipe the slate clean after the band council became embroiled in a power struggle that threatened the band’s operations and engulfed the local health centre.
Simon had accused a group of four band councillors, known as chiefs in the community, of launching a coup and seizing control of the community’s operations.
Simon, who refused to take a salary when he was elected, and his two supporters on council won the referendum vote which asked community members whether they had confidence in each of the band’s politicians.
The four ousted councillors, nicknamed “the quorum,” claimed the referendum was illegal and refused to acknowledge the results.
The department’s decision to not acknowledge the referendum results is viewed as a victory for the quorum.
The four councillors, who form a quorum on council, have been passing resolutions and spending money on legal fees without involving Simon or the two other chiefs supporting his position. They also stripped Simon of the land claim negotiation portfolio as a result of a letter he wrote to the community accusing Ottawa’s chief negotiator of issuing a veiled threat.
Simon forwarded a band council resolution to the department last Thursday authorizing the referendum’s vote.
The department did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the resolution.
Dumont suggests in the email that the council either resolve its competing power claims internally through its own custom election, consensus or through the courts.
“I wish to reiterate (the department’s) preoccupation in regard to the governance situation prevailing in Kanesatake and its potential impact on the delivery of essential programs and services to the population,” wrote Dumont. “As such we encourage all parties to work together to address their differences and provide AANDC with clean and undisputed information as to the identity of the community’s elected leadership.”