When should you go ahead and banish someone from the community?
That question has been bandied about after Josh Zachary was allegedly at it again, as reported on in last week’s paper.
It has happened in the recent past, a few years ago, when Serge Junior Tremblay and his many misgivings were enough for the Mohawk Council to say o:nén to him and his criminal activity, and he was told never to come back to Kahnawake.
Now, the same type of thing is being seriously discussed concerning Zachary, with a rap sheet so very long it could one day be a novel.
People are attacking this from a few key sides, which we will try to write about here.
First, keeping the community safe by keeping career criminals out, no matter what their background/lineage/last name is – a slam dunk, right?
It should be a priority, whether it’s someone on the KKR or not; wreaking havoc and hurting people here is a no-no and needs to be dealt with harshly.
Hurting people anywhere, even if not here, means, well, don’t target our community, and leave.
Would you want your child getting hurt or killed because someone had a fifth chance at rehabbing for a better life?
Of course not. You’d be outraged. And we all should be, regardless if our own family has been hurt or not.
Another argument that comes in is addictions: these people need help.
When we say these people, we mean anyone who does bad things while drunk, high, or just by being a you-know-what.
So how do we tackle these very real issues that have split families and left victims on their own as they try to deal with the repercussions of crime?
Throw on top of it all that word colonialism, mix in genocide, intergenerational trauma and lateral violence, and you have a spicy soup of being Onkwehón:we in modern times – struggling with the shit thrown our way as we attempt to make a better life with all the leftover ingredients we’ve been forced to eat.
Because all of the good food, the healthy things like self-worth, our rights, and our land have been eaten away by everyone else, so now we have to make sense of it all, without any forks, plates, or even a cookbook to guide us.
We have this funny thing we do in town – wait until someone has turned their life to crap, and then when they rebound, miraculously, we pat them on the back, invite them as guest speakers, and sing their praises.
And that’s fine, but we often forget the ones who didn’t screw up, who work hard every day and feed their families – the ones we don’t talk about because “they’re okay, they don’t need our help.”
Everyone needs help, by the way, even the ones who look like they have it all together.
It’s a sickness we have and it needs to be talked about. If these same criminals turned their lives around tomorrow and stopped abusing, hurting, and doing all of the bad things they’ve done, they would instantly become heroes. And that’s a sickness we carry because of everything we have been through individually and as a people.
Sure, praise them for turning it around, but part of that is spending the rest of your life trying – but never fully succeeding – to fix all the wrongs you’ve done, even if you were drunk or high while doing them.
So yes, addictions can be used to explain behaviours and people can be encouraged to seek help, sometimes with more tough love than kid gloves, but make no mistake, the real victims here are… wait for it… the victims!
And it goes further. When we praise someone for buying their kid a toy or a meal, but ignore their verbal or physical abuse towards them; when people who have done nothing for this community are put on a pedestal because, well, we’re scared of their online rants and lateral violence? That’s not right either, and it will take a whole lot of soul-searching for it to turn around here in Kahnawake.
Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.