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Mohawk Council of Kanesatake elects new grand chief for first time in 10 years

MONTREAL — Newly elected Kanesatake Grand Chief Victor Bonspille says he wants to bring positive change in the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community, west of Montreal. 

Bonspille was elected as the Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake early Sunday.

The election was held Saturday, more than a month after being delayed due to COVID-19, and the results came in early Sunday morning. 

"I will be celebrating with a cup of coffee and then by going to bed," Bonspille said in an interview with The Canadian Press. 

Bonspille defeated Serge Otsi Simon who held the title for 10 years, by an official count of 368 votes to 283. 

"In some ways, it’s a big weight off my back," Simon said. "Ten years of this, all of this sudden, it’s over. It’s a bit liberating." 

Simon was first elected grand chief in 2011. Kanesatake has since seen a rise in cannabis dispensaries and criminal activities on its territory, which had raised concerns and prompted calls for the creation of a local police force. 

More recently, on July 1, Arsene Mompoint, 47, with alleged links to street gangs and organized crime, was shot in broad daylight outside The Green Room, a cannabis dispensary in Kanesatake. 

Bonspille's electoral campaign denounced the lack of consultation and transparency from the outgoing grand chief — a criticism which Simon said he wished he could have handled better. 

"I could have consulted better during those years, I always held my community meetings but with COVID-19 we couldn't have them, and people got frustrated," Simon said. 

Bonspille said he intends to do things differently. 

"It’s going to be a group and community effort," he said. "We have a lot of work to do, a lot of repairs, then we will take it from there and work on positive change for Kanesatake." 

Fourteen candidates were also running for a position on the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake. 

Amy Beauvais, Jeremy Teiawenniserahte Tomlinson, Denise David, John Canatonquin, Brant Etienne and Valerie Bonspille were also elected as the new chiefs of the Mohawk council. 

"I look forward to working toward bringing the people back to the political table and facilitating some important dialogue that needs to happen for our people to move forward," newly elected Council Chief Tomlinson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 1, 2021. 

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Bonspille defeated Serge Otsi Simon who withheld the title for 10 years.