Photo by Reina Ephrahim
Upon entering the Knights of Columbus Hall the evening of October 22, a pindrop could be heard in the sea of empty chairs laid out for nearly 100 people. But by then, only six seats had been occupied.
The Meet the Candidates Night organized by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) was met with a low turnout of no more than 22 by the end of the event. Electoral officer Angus L. Montour and assistant electoral officer Muriel White-Rice were visibly disappointed by the lack of local interest.
“I expected a little more, actually,” said Montour. “I don’t know why we didn’t have such a good turnout, but because it’s broadcast live on Facebook and K103.7, people would rather be on their couches and listen.”
The turnout included attendees, journalists, camera crew invited to broadcast the meeting over Facebook, the three candidates and both electoral officers.
During the election for grand chief, Kahnawa’kehró:non were able to ask questions from home. Some were even allowed to call in whereas this time, such options were not available, Montour noted.
The candidates present at the scene (who are also on the ballot for the November 5 by-election) were Iohahiio Delisle, Stephen McComber, and David A. Diabo, all of whom are running to fill the Council seat vacated by former Council chief Alan John Rice.
After making their initial entry points in the first 20 minutes of the evening, electoral officer Montour commenced the question period that lasted approximately an hour and 45 minutes.
To the officiating members’ surprise, the low turnout did not hinder attendees’ ability to ask pertinent questions that seemed to puzzle and challenge the nominees. Topics discussed included food sovereignty and food security, evictions, residency and housing, traditional versus more modern approaches to running Council, conflict resolution, and much more.
“You’re coming in with these big, bright ideas and the things that you want to do for the community. But when you get in, you’re gonna get hoodwinked because it’s no secret that administration runs Council,” said one attendee (who wished to remain anonymous). “What are you gonna do to change that to be accountable to us?”
Another person asked, “Are you all planning, if you get elected, to stick out the entire term, or are you going to step down again like the others did?”
The question was met with applause and cheering from most visitors.
“Well, tonight very good questions were asked of the candidates, with very good responses,” said attendee Peggy Mayo-Standup. “However, the only disappointment I had was that there were very few people here to hear it. On the other hand, there is only one position, so I understand that when it’s a full election, the place is full.”
White-Rice also felt that the manner in which the questions were answered were well-thought-out and articulated.
“I think they were more personal, or more honest and open, like they were trying to communicate and be in touch with the people that were here, and really relate to them,” she said.
Montour also suspected that not many people would attend by-election day come November 5.
“I know that at election time, there’s not going to be that many people. There’s going to be like a third or under a third of people voting,” he said.
The polls were Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Karonhianónhnha Tsi Ionterihwaienstáhkhwa elementary school.