The subject of the latest communique coming out of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) is news to no one: the community is overwhelmed by environmental issues. 

According to MCK chief Brant Etienne, the Council majority decided to lump the issues together because of their common threads, which he said all stem from greed. 

“It’s one cancer with multiple symptoms,” said Etienne. 

“People say I’ll get mine and that’s all that matters.” 

Etienne and MCK chiefs Amy Beauvais, John Canatonquin, Denise David, and Serge Otsi Simon signed the document, a digest summarizing challenges relating to land filling, the state of G&R Recycling, and soil testing. 

The chiefs used the communique to urge community members to send photos of identifying information of dump trucks, information they say could help them confront the problem. 

However, weeks after an emergency meeting between the quorum of chiefs following an incident in which community members stopped dump trucks from entering Ahsennénhson to deliver loads to Gary Gabriel, there is still little indication of specific actions that the Council has at its disposal. 

The MCK Environment Department has been threatened when it has tried to obtain soil samples, according to the communique – officials from the department did not respond to a request for comment, although Etienne said the Surete du Quebec has suggested it would participate as an escort in the future if necessary. 

Etienne believes the MCK Environment Department has the right to test soils because lands in Kanesatake are not owned in the sense that they are off the territory.  

“The underlying title of all lands of Kanesatake is for the use and benefit of the Mohawk people of Kanesatake,” he said. 

“For everybody’s benefit, there may be times we have to step in and test lands.” 

Despite the introduction of a new soil-tracking system known as Traces Quebec, Etienne believes there are still probably ways for unscrupulous companies to unload contaminated soils and that it is likely Kanesatake is once again being preyed on by the construction industry. 

“The Charbonneau Commission showed the extent to which organized crime is involved in the construction industry,” he said, referring to a public inquiry in Quebec on the subject. 

G&R Recycling is also addressed in the communique, although there has been no headway since the latest stalemate. As The Eastern Door recently reported, the Gabriel brothers have refused to sign a non-interference letter that Council majority said could have enabled W8banaki to begin coordinating characterization work of the site. Meanwhile, the majority of chiefs have not budged on their refusal to take possession of the G&R land without assurances from the federal government about liability. 

Etienne said the Council majority has recently contacted the federal government about the matter. 

“We’ve sent official letters explaining the situation, especially with the Gabriel brothers’ refusal to sign the letter of non-interference,” he said. However, there has not yet been a response, he said. 

He blames MCK grand chief Victor Bonspille for undermining the majority’s efforts on the environment. “The majority of the legal governing body of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake has been working faithfully on this from the beginning of the mandate, but because of the political interference from the grand chief, a lot of things have been stalled or we’ve been getting the cold shoulder as that creates uncertainty in terms of our partners in government because they don’t know which way to go,” said Etienne. 

Meanwhile, Bonspille, who did not respond to a request for comment, has blamed the Council majority for problems remediating Kanesatake’s environmental issues, particularly by declining to accept the land transfer. 

“Those individuals are trying to get Canada to agree to their demands of having certain companies, W8banaki, do their characterization of the G&R site,” said Bonspille at last week’s public meeting that he hosted. 

Bonspille also presented a closer relationship with the SQ as a potential solution to issues such as dumping, pitching the idea of SQ patrols in Kanesatake. 

The communique sent by the majority of MCK chiefs said environmental issues should take precedence over internal Council conflicts. 

Etienne said the Council majority has not exhausted its options on the environmental issues plaguing the community, adding that court orders and political cooperation with external municipalities and ridings, among other avenues, are possible tools. 

“As our work progresses, we’ll release more information to the community,” he said.

By Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 29, 2024 at 12:50

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eastern Door   Kahnawake, Quebec
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