Onerahtokha / April 30, 2009
AKWESASNE — The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, and Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs issued the following joint statement today as the Mohawk community of Akwesasne prepares to mark the 110th anniversary since the passing of Saiowisakeron, also known as “Jake Ice.” Saiowisakeron was a Mohawk activist that was shot and killed by Dominion Police on May 1, 1899 as he opposed the Government of Canada’s effort to impose federal policies in our territory.
At the Kawehnoke Port of Entry, Akwesasne Mohawk leaders will commemorate “Saiowisakeron Day” at 9am on May 1st and bring attention to the Government of Canada’s ill-conceived plan to arm Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) Officers stationed in Akwesasne beginning in June 2009. Akwesasne Mohawk leaders are united in viewing the arming of CBSA officers as a direct assault on our sovereignty, which resonates into an act of aggression against our Mohawk people and community.
Akwesasne leaders condemn the Canadian Government’s intention to permit its custom officers to begin carrying weapons at the Kawehnoke Port of Entry. The act of arming federal agents in the Mohawk territory of Akwesasne will unnecessarily worsen an already volatile situation. It will intentionally and haphazardly place the safety of surrounding Akwesasne residents and all border travelers in jeopardy.
Mohawk leaders draw attention to the fact that the Kawehnoke Port of Entry is one of only a few border facilities located on First Nations territory—out of 119 land-border crossings managed by CBSA. Additionally, it is situated in a residential area at a major crossroad on Kawehnoke; which is the location of a bus stop where children gather, recreational fields and a play area, a large number of homes, a district convenience store, several small businesses and other typical features of a populated residential area. All of which, would be placed in harm’s way if CBSA agents begin carrying firearms.
Additionally, the majority of travelers that pass through the Kawehnoke Port of Entry are Akwesasne residents. According to an August 2002 report co-commissioned by Transport Canada and reaffirmed by a recent socio-economic study, Akwesasne Mohawks account for nearly 70% of traffic that passes through the border facility. This includes Kawehnoke residents that use the border crossing several times each day on their way to work or school; to carry on daily business; to visit friends and family; or to attend the health, social, cultural or recreational facilities and events throughout Akwesasne–a community bisected in the middle by the international border.
In response to Canada’s plan to arm custom officers at the Kawehnoke Port of Entry, Akwesasne Mohawk leaders support the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s ban on the carrying of firearms by CBSA officers within the Akwesasne corridor. They also support MCA’s demand for an immediate consultation process or commission of inquiry be implemented to re-evaluate the Minister of Public Safety’s plan to arm officers at the Kawehnoke Port of Entry.
Combined with documented acts of provocation by CBSA officers, Akwesasne Mohawk leaders do not support the use of guns at the Kawehnoke Port of Entry. Numerous reports have been filed with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s (MCA) Department of Justice against CBSA officers for violation of our community member’s individual rights. These complaints have in turn been filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
They note that there is an existing working arrangement for CBSA to utilize the protection services of Mohawk Security Officers, which are located in the same border facility. This has provided for a safe working environment and border crossing for more than 25 years, without the use of guns. Arming CBSA officers will unnecessarily and irreparably damage this cooperative working relationship and efforts by Akwesasne Mohawk leaders to work in partnership with the Government of Canada to address mutual concerns related to border security.
Akwesasne Mohawk leaders stated that an exception was previously made by the Government of Canada to make the Kawehnoke Port of Entry one of only a few Canada Customs on First Nations territory–another exception can be made to not permit the arming of its customs officers.