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Mohawk Council criticizes Canadian government for award

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CORNWALL ISLAND - The Canadian government should have researched more before awarding Constable Michael Biron a “Medal of Bravery,” according to the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.

In a letter Friday to Governor General David Johnston, the Mohawk Council criticized the award selection committee for failing to contact the Akwesasne Mohawk government, Police Service or Police Commission prior to honoring Mr. Biron.

Mr. Biron had been in a high-speed police pursuit on Cornwall Island in November 2008. The suspect in the pursuit, Dany Gionet, slammed into a car carrying Edward and Eileen Kassian of Massena, killing all three.

Mr. Johnston honored Mr. Biron last month for attempting to save the Kassians from their burning vehicle. The award drew the ire of the Kassian family and others in the Akwesasne and Massena communities who felt he was responsible for causing their deaths.

“We would have informed the Advisory Committee that the Akwesasne community, as well as those that were directly involved in the tragedy, including the deceased’s family members, is still in a period of much-needed healing,” the council noted.“Therefore, we would have wisely advised that the nomination comes at a difficult time for our community.”

Rumors that Mr. Biron was somehow involved in the nomination process are false, officials noted.

“The award has resulted in threats and accusations being made against Officer Biron claiming that he was somehow involved in the nomination—when in actuality he had nothing to do with it,” the council noted, “Yet, had he refused to accept the award, it would have left the impression that he was guilty of something.

“A great tragedy has occurred in Akwesasne. And, the hurt stemming from that tragedy is continuing to be felt nearly three and a half years later,” officials added. “As a result, the nomination and selection of Cst. Biron for the Medal of Bravery only serves to prolong our community’s healing process.”

Mohawk officials said it was necessary to bring the issue to the governor general’s attention.

“We want to avoid a repeat of this situation and have more hurt caused due to a lack of first-hand information during the nomination process,” the council said.

The Mohawk Council’s correspondence follows a letter Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, sent recently asking the governor general to release more information surrounding the award process.

Marie-Pierre Belanger, a media relations officer to the secretary to the governor general, said the office was not able to respond to follow-up questions surrounding Mr. Biron’s award on Monday afternoon. She previously said a detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Chancellery of Honours completes a review of each of the nominees.

“Witnesses, investigators and police officers are contacted as part of the research process,” she said in an email. “The normal nomination and file review process was followed.”

Canadian officials have said the identity of the person or persons who nominated Mr. Biron for the award are confidential.

Mr. Biron has since been reassigned off of road patrol, according to Akwesasne Mohawk Police Chief Jerry Swamp.

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