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Owens pledges support to Kassian family

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MASSENA - Rep. William L. Owens is pledging his support to a Massena family seeking answers after last week’s ceremony honoring Constable Michael A. Biron.

Mr. Biron, who serves in the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, was one of 38 Canadians honored during Canadian Governor General David Johnston’s annual “Decorations for Bravery Ceremony” Friday in Ottawa.

While visiting Massena on Monday, Mr. Owens said he would seek out answers from the Canadian government on Mr. Biron’s nomination and selection process if the Kassian family wanted him to.

“It certainly from my perspective raises some questions. I’m not sure I want to comment much beyond that at this point,” Mr. Owens said. “What kind of investigation did they do into it? What specifically are they trying to achieve by honoring him?”

Mr. Biron and Canadian Border Services Officer Yves Soumillon were honored for unsuccessfully attempting to save Edward and Eileen Kassian from their burning car after an accident in November 2008 on Cornwall Island, according to a news release from the governor general’s office.

The news release did not mention that Mr. Biron had been pursuing the speeding van that crashed into the Kassians’ vehicle. On the evening of the incident, Mr. Biron had attempted to stop suspected cigarette smuggler Dany Gionet, 21, of Quebec after receiving a police tip that Mr. Gionet’s vehicle appeared to be loaded with contraband.

Mr. Gionet failed to comply with the traffic stop and led Mr. Biron on a chase reaching speeds as high as 100 miles per hour along the island’s rural roads before blowing through the intersection of International and Island roads, striking the Kassians’ passing vehicle and killing all three people. Mr. and Mrs. Kassian, both 77, were driving home to Massena after a day trip to Montreal.

In September 2010, the Ontario Provincial Court dismissed criminal charges against Mr. Biron related to the accident.

Mr. Owens said his work on the issue would be contingent on the Kassian family’s approval. On Monday afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Kassian’s son, Douglas, welcomed Mr. Owens’ assistance.

“He has our blessing,” Mr. Kassian said. “That’s what our goal is. Let’s see who nominated him. Let’s see what process it is. Do they look into the circumstances surrounding the nomination?”

Mr. Kassian said the award was “beyond belief,” as he still considers Mr. Biron responsible for his parents’ death.

“Anyone under these circumstances would want this looked into and want answers,” he said. “It definitely raises the question as to why he gets the award given the totality of the circumstances.”

Efforts to reach Akwesasne Mohawk Police Chief Jerry Swamp and the governor general’s office were unsuccessful Monday.

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