Iatathrona Raotiientahtsera "Couples Property" Law Receives Federal Approval

Record breaking turnout in ratification

Kentenhko:wa/November 23, 2015

TERRITORY OF AKWESASNE – The Iatathróna Raotiientáhtsera ‘Couples Property’ Law will be effective as of Thursday, November 26, 2015. Persons wishing to file an application under this law may do so at the Akwesasne Mohawk Court.

On September 1, 2015, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne received notification from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) informing the Akwesasne community that the Iatathróna Raotiientáhtsera ‘Couples Property’ Law was approved in accordance with the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interest or Rights Act (the “Act”). With 2,008 eligible voters participating in the referendum that was conducted this past spring; Akwesasne is the largest First Nations community in Canada to have reached the required threshold established under the Act. This turnout also sets a record as the highest turnout in the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s history.

The Act places a threshold of 25% voter participation on First Nations communities in order to enact their community law. The Mohawks of Akwesasne have a Membership of 7,526 over 18 years of age, making the required minimum turnout 1,883.

Akwesasne is now the eighth First Nation community in Canada to have enacted a community specific law on matrimonial real property in accordance with the Act. The next largest community recognized as achieving the threshold is the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, who had 1,725 eligible voters at the time of their vote with 475 casting a ballot.

“You can say to your grandchildren that you were part of the solution that allowed Akwesasronon the ability to take control of a law that would work out better for our community,” states Akwesasne Justice Department Director Joyce King when addressing the referendum staff who were able to make this historic moment happen.

The Iatathróna Raotiientáhtsera ‘Couples Property’ Law provides one set of rules for Akwesasne to follow when a relationship breakdown occurs and a determination on division of matrimonial property is needed. Akwesasne’s law includes mediation as the first step in resolving any disputes. If early resolution options, such as mediation, are unsuccessful then an application to the Akwesasne Mohawk Court will require a hearing.

An outcome of an application filed will never result in Matrimonial Lands being transferred to anyone: the land will always remain with the land owner. However, it may result in temporary possession of the Matrimonial Home being granted to another party, if that is in the best interest of any children of the union.

Applications may be filed by any party in a relationship breakdown, or in situations of domestic violence. The Iatathróna Raotiientáhtsera ‘Couples Property’ Law outlines the specific criteria of what qualifies in either situation.

For more information on filing an application under this law please contact the Akwesasne Mohawk Court at 613-575-2250 ext. 1025 or ext. 1026, or visit the Akwesasne Justice Departments website at akwesasne.ca/Justice.