AKWESASNE LEADERS RESPOND TO CBSA’s 24-hour “grace period
Akwesasne, ONTARIO — On September 21st, Akwesasne leadership notified the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) of the growing concerns and fear of community members that they are being subjected to vehicle seizures and monetary fines for not directly reporting to the relocated Port of Entry in the City of Cornwall. The CBSA responded in the late-afternoon on September 23rd with information that was shared with the community this morning on Akwesasne’s local radio station by Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Mike Mitchell and St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief James Ransom.
In response to the concerns of community members, Paul Porrier, CBSA’s Director for Intelligence & Enforcement Division for the Northern Ontario Region, noted that there will be a 24-hour grace period of enforcement actions against individuals that do not directly report. That grace period expires at 8am on Friday, September 25th for Akwesasne residents traveling from the United States to Cornwall Island to comply with CBSA’s reporting requirement.
In response to the temporary grace period, Akwesasne leaders noted during the radio update that it is only a short-term relief for some community member’s concerns. They also indicated that it will be an individual’s decision on whether to comply, or not, when the grace period ends on September 25th.
Additional information from the CBSA noted that they will not use information collected on non-reporting vehicles between September 14th and September 23rd in any subsequent enforcement actions. No other exceptions will apply and on September 25th, the CBSA will continue with its non-report enforcement strategy initiated on September 16th. However, any enforcement action that has already taken by the CBSA for persons who have previously failed to report directly to the relocated Port of Entry in the City of Cornwall cannot be overturned, nor can the fines that the CBSA collected be returned.
After September 25th, the CBSA indicated that individuals that chose not to comply with their reporting requirement will be subject to the following enforcement actions: A $1,000 fine will be imposed for the return of any seized vehicle after the first act of failing to report. A second failure to report will result in a $2,000 fine for the return of the vehicle. All other subsequent failures to report will result in a $3,000 fine for the return of the vehicle. It was noted that the driver of the vehicle may also be subject to charges under that Customs Act and Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Akwesasne leadership noted that on July 14th, one day after the temporary port was opened in City of Cornwall; Akwesasne leadership sent a letter to CBSA President Stephen Rigby clearly stating that the reporting requirement was and continues to be impractical. There was no consultation with the Akwesasne community on the impact and hardships that would be experienced by Akwesasne residents as a result of the decision to have them directly report before continuing to their final destination on Cornwall Island.
Akwesasne leaders requested that CBSA work cooperatively in exploring reasonable solutions and alternative reporting mechanisms for Akwesasane, just like CBSA has with other border communities.
The 24-hour grace period from enforcing the reporting requirement does not provide a long-term solution to Akwesasne’s past grievances against the CBSA. As well, notification about the requirement to report is not the issue. The incompatibility of CBSA’s reporting requirement with Akwesasne’s normal daily life continues to be the main problem. The requirement to report has made a complicated situation more difficult by directly causing unnecessary and irreparable harm to community members.
The location of the temporary customs facility and the unreasonable wait times have a tremendous impact on our community’s health, economy, cultural, and social activities. It fails to take into consideration the need for local residents to travel within our own community. As a result, Akwesasne leaders have consistently urged CBSA to meet and discuss alternative reporting measures. These requests were ignored and our community’s insistence that the reporting requirement is unreasonable is not being taken into consideration by the CBSA.
Our people must cross into other portions of our community several times a day to carry on normal daily routines for school, work, business, or for other reasons as they go about their lives. More importantly, our emergency response personnel should have the ability to respond to a call on Cornwall Island without having to first report at the Port in Cornwall. Until a few days ago; our ambulance drivers, fire fighters and police officers were directed to report before responding to an emergency on Cornwall Island. Today, the CBSA has informed Akwesasne leaders that emergency response personnel no longer need to first report, but they will be required to do so after responding to an emergency on Cornwall Island.
Akwesasne has provided several, good alternative reporting mechanisms where Akwesasne residents could report and meet Canada’s reporting requirement. These proposed alterative mechanisms have been repeatedly ignored by the CBSA. Akwesasne is asking Canada to acknowledge and accommodate our community’s unique geographic location, just as it has for other border communities by making special reporting arrangements.
The CBSA’s adamant stance to force Akwesasne residents to directly report in Cornwall seems like punishment to all the people of Akwesasne. As a result, Akwesasne leadership will continue to develop alternative reporting mechanisms that will address the concerns and needs of the Akwesasne community. In the interim, the short-term relief does not deter Akwesasne leaders from continuing to pursue political and legal remedies to the current border difficulties that have been imposed on community members by the CBSA.”
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