Quebec Minister of Native Affairs Visits Akwesasne

Grand Chief Tim Thompson, Chief Louis Lazore with Minister Kelly

Akwesasne – The Honorable Geoffrey Kelly, Quebec Native Affairs Minister, made his third visit to Akwesasne on Monday November 6, 2006.

With a commitment to share Akwesasne’s complicated Health, Education and Child Care issues at Akwesasne, Grand Chief Tim Thompson and Tsi Snaihne District Chief Louis Lazore insured that Minister Kelly made a special visit to the Kanonkwatsheriio and Iohahiio facilities.

Later a meeting was convened with MCA Chiefs, directors and administration to share with Minister Kelly the ways in which Akwesasne’s complicated jurisdictional issues have impeded services to this community. In his presentation to the Minister, Grand Chief Thompson said, “Akwesasne is very uniquely situated in two countries and two provinces, but we look at our community as one community. He continued by saying, “The border that has been imposed on us, is a problem which is making things very complicated in the delivery of services, especially when it relates to Akwesasne health care.”

Many health care issues were brought to the attention of Minister Kelly including complicated issues such as the getting the flu vaccine from two provinces, the need to better the response time for a coroner, and pandemic issues. The Grand Chiefs’ presentation also focused attention on the already overburdened and under-funded Akwesasne ambulance service which encompasses three jurisdictions under three different legislations and the border crossing situation which impedes service delivery.

Kanatakon District Chiefs Larry King and Florence Phillips further outlined the difficulties in getting insurance coverage for Akwesasne residents in Kanatakon and Tsi Snaihne as well as a history of difficulties with the QHIP health card. District Chief Connie Hall further outlined special needs issues that had been difficult to address for Kanatakon and Tsi Snaihne residents.

The Grand Chief also drew the Minister’s attention to the need to complete the waterline in the district of Tsi Snaihne to insure that all of its residents will meet drinking water standards as well as increasing the capacity of the current Tsi Snaihne sewage treatment plant. Grand Chief Thompson further emphasized Akwesasne community infrastructure needs for road construction, repairs and upgrades and the need for a road from Tsi Snaihne to Dundee for better access to goods and services in Quebec. Minister Kelly also was drawn to notice the various islands that were in need of erosion protection.

In the area of Education, Grand Chief Thompson especially mentioned the Skills Trade Course that had been advocated by Tsi Snaihne District Chief Louis Lazore. He announced to Minister Kelly that the Skills Trade Course to be held at the Iohahiio Education facility has nearly 80 Akwesasne applicants for the course, and that Akwesasne is looking for a way to expand the course to meet community needs.

In the area of Economic Development the Grand Chief, applauded the 1999 Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between Quebec and Akwesasne where the program assisted in the start up of over 100 Akwesasne businesses and created over 330 jobs. The Grand Chief stated that this was one of the most beneficial programs to have been created for Aboriginal people and that Akwesasne would like to see that kind of partnership pursued in the future. CAO Russell Roundpoint and Director of Economic Development Vaughn Sunday reiterated the importance of Quebec-Akwesasne agreements in establishing good economic development initiatives at Akwesasne.

The Minister was extremely attentive to the various issues and Akwesasne and expressed his cognizance of the way that the numerous borders and jurisdictions further encumber the delivery of services at Akwesasne. The Minister made a commitment to continue discussions on Akwesasne’s unique circumstances.