Court hears expert evidence in Men’s Fire case
BRANTFORD – Known members of the Men’s Fire, Bill Monture and Lester Green were in court last week facing assault charges for the removal of Lawyer Aaron Detlor from his office in the Grand River Employment and Training Centre (GREAT) in Ohsweken on April 26, 2016.
Seeking expert evidence, Andrew Furgiuele, defence attorney for Monture and Green, called Tekarontake “Paul Delaronde” to the stand on Wednesday, June 21, day three of the trial, to be questioned and deemed an Expert Witness in Haudenosaunee Land Governance.
After questioning from both the Crown and Defence, Tekarontake, was qualified as an expert witness in Haudenosaunee Land Governance by Honourable Justice Bourque and the trial moved forward.
According to an article by Brian Weingarten on www.bwdefencelaw.com, the use of expert evidence calls for some caution:
“The use of expert evidence in criminal cases requires a degree of caution. While expert evidence tendered by either the Crown or the Defence can be a powerful tool to prove guilt or innocence, there is also an inherent danger that the trier of fact will place an overemphasis on the evidence. The law of evidence in Canada generally holds that witnesses are only permitted to testify as to their own observations. It would be improper for a lay witness to go a step further and state at trial, ‘in my opinion’.”
Canadian law says that the rules are different for qualified expert witnesses.
“Expert witnesses are an exception to the general evidentiary rule that prohibits opinion evidence. Individuals who are properly qualified as “experts,” are entitled to present opinions and conclusions on issues that they are qualified to comment upon.
Tekarontake, 65, was born and raised near Montreal, in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, by his grandparents. His grandfather sat on the council in the longhouse as Bear clan chief and his grandmother was utilized by the Bear clan family to be an acting clanmother because she was fully immersed in the Haudenosaunee ways.
“I was forbidden to speak English at home,” said Tekarontake, mentioning that he doesn’t like the word “tradition” and that it can be very misleading.
“I grew up in our ways. Listening and asking questions.”
Tekarontake sat in council as a Sub-Chief for two and a half years in the ‘70s. He has been invited around the world to speak at various lectures and conventions as a spokesperson on topics that are currently affecting the Ogweho:weh, or, Real People. Tekarontake often speaks about what he called “Our constitution”, trying to remove stereotypes and remind others of the accomplishments of the Ogweho:weh.
Tekarontake was previously qualified as an Expert in Traditional Indian Governance in court proceedings in New York.
Crown Attorney Slater asked Tekarontake if there is controversy or disagreement on the role of the “Men’s Fire”, “the Warriors”, or “Young Men” on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, which Tekarontake replied by stating, “There are people with conflicting interests who don’t want the old ways to prevail.”
Slater asked Tekarontake if he naturally sides with, or aligns himself with, the current state of the Men’s Fire.
“I’m not here to choose sides,” said Tekarontake after a few seconds of silence, folding his arms across his chest. “I’m here to share and educate. I’m not here for a side.”
Slater asked Tekarontake if he would call himself an advocate for the Men’s Fire and Tekarontake said, “Don’t twist my words. I’ve been advocating for ‘Our Ways’ my whole life.”
Tekarontake testified greatly on the role and responsibility of the men, women, chiefs, and clan mothers in the confederacy, stating that each individual has a responsibility to fulfill and that nobody has authority over anybody.
“No one has authority over anybody else. Not the women, not the men, not the clanmothers, not the Royanni. Our people have responsibility, not authority.”
Tekarontake said he has acquired a lot of his expert knowledge from elders and leaders from the Grand River area.
“I’ve listened to the people, and worked with the people. Those teachings I am talking about are what I’ve learned from the people here.
“It was the people from Ohswe:kon who retaught to our people about ‘Kaianerekowa’ [Great Law of Peace]. About how we sit, and council, and how the clan system works because it was outlawed for generations,” said Tekarontake, adding that he prefers to translate Kaianerekowa as the “Great Path” or “Great Teaching”.
Tekarontake continued to testify for the rest of the day and Thursday, June 22. Furgiuele said outside of court that the next scheduled trial date is set for early September.