MCA WILL MOVE FORWARD WITH ALTERNATIVE REPORTING STRATEGY
TERRITORY OF AKWESASNE - On January 14, 2014, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and representatives of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs met with federal officials from the Canada Border Services Agency, Public Safety, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The gathering follows a series of meetings held during the past year aimed at addressing the frustration of Akwesasne residents due to the CBSA’s reporting requirement. It provided an update on previous efforts and challenges that remain for the development of an alternative reporting mechanism, which the MCA has been attempting to do in cooperation with the CBSA.
“Our message was unanimous to the Government of Canada,” said MCA Grand Chief. “Those Akwesasne leaders that attended all expressed concern about how upset community members have become from having to report in Cornwall. Our people have endured this unreasonable measure long enough and, as leaders, we must do what is best for our community.”
When the CBSA voluntarily and unexpectedly abandoned their customs facility on Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island) minutes before midnight on May 31, 2009; they created confusion and frustration when they opened a temporary Port-of-Entry 42-days later at the foot of the north span for the Three Nations Bridge Crossing. Without consulting the Akwesasne community prior to moving outside of community, the border agency relocated its operation and imposed a requirement to directly report at their POE now located in Cornwall. Failure to report has resulted in nearly 300 vehicle seizures and fines imposed on the owner—resulting in nearly $300,000 being paid by the MCA to assist Akwesasne residents in getting their cars released by the CBSA.
In the days that immediately followed the CBSA relocation in 2009, Akwesasne leaders met with senior-level CBSA officials to voice the concerns of community members. However, CBSA was unwilling to discuss the relocation of the Customs and walked out of negotiations. In the years that followed, Akwesasne leadership made attempts to resume talks with the CBSA.
Below is a short summary of the most significant meetings that took place this past year in regard to alternative reporting:
(Please note this list is only a summary and does not reflect numerous other meetings and correspondences with CBSA and bridge officials on alternative reporting and other issues.)
- January 10, 2013 - Council meets with new-CBSA Regional Director General Arianne Reza to discuss Duty to Consult and Duty to Accommodate the Akwesasne community due to the relocation of the CBSA to the City of Cornwall; as well border wait signage, amnesty for vehicle seizures, re-implementing the P4 lane for Akwesasne residents, and other concerns
- May 2, 2013 – Council, CBSA, U.S. Embassy (Ottawa), Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council and the City of Cornwall meet in Ottawa to discuss need for more facilitated border travel to support local economies.
- May 15, 2013, MCA, CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) meet in Cornwall to discuss “Akwesasne Alternative Reporting Mechanism Proposal.”
- June 5, 2013 – MCA and CBSA meet in Ottawa to discuss alternative reporting mechanism. MCA reminds CBSA that deadlines have not been met by CBSA.
- December 19, 2013 – MCA sends letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper declaring a State of Emergency due to the ongoing hardships that the Akwesasne community continues to endure as a result of the CBSA’s reporting requirement. SRMT and Mohawk Nation Council sent similar letters.
- January 14, 2014 – CBSA and Federal representatives attend meeting in Akwesasne to discuss MCA’s issues and alternative reporting plans
- January 27, 2014 – CBSA and Federal representatives will meet with MCA to review progress made since January 14th meeting.
- January 30, 2014 – An update will be provided to MCA’s community members at the MCA General Meeting, being held in Kana:takon at the St. Regis Recreation starting at 6:30 p.m.