MOHAWK COUNCIL OF AKWESASNE WANTS SUBSTANTIVE TALKS WITH CBSA TO BEGIN
AKWESASNE MOHAWK TERRITORY, — When CBSA closed the crossing through Cornwall Island on May 31, 2009, the Mohawks and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) agreed to form a Task Force on how to find long term solutions to the problems surrounding border crossing at Akwesasne. Then, when the CBSA moved its Port of Entry to the city of Cornwall it created other problems that severely impacted the daily life conditions and economies of the people of Akwesasne, Cornwall and surrounding communities.
When the CBSA was recently called to task, regarding how long this problem was taking, they issued media releases saying that they had been meeting with the Mohawks all along. Unfortunately for the Mohawks and the Public, this is not the case.
On April 22, 2010, The Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Mike Mitchell, issued a statement to notify the public that there had NOT been any substantive discussions or meetings of the Task Force Group that is composed of Akwesasne leadership and high level officials of the Canada Border Services Agency since the fall of 2009.
As recently as June 2, 2010, CBSA has made public statements that, “the parties are working cooperatively and in a positive manner” on the implementation of four joint commitments: the establishment of an aboriginal liaison position, the introduction of aboriginal awareness training for border services officers; and the review and implementation of a new monitoring process and the hiring of aboriginal employees.
On this matter the MCA wishes to make the following clarification:
These four issues came about from a complaint filed by the MCA to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2006 that forced CBSA to sit down and mediate a solution. Although an MOU was drafted to finalize what had been agreed upon, it was never acted upon. MCA agreed to assign technicians to complete the task. MCA does not consider this process a form of negotiations and wish to remind CBSA that these obligations are already four years old and should have already been acted upon. We want to stress that these are not the major issues facing the Task Force and we need to resume the talks that addressed the real issues of contention. We cannot resolve the bigger picture if high level officials of CBSA don’t sit down to negotiate.
The Mohawk Council has repeatedly requested meetings with the CBSA management to discuss important issues at leadership Task Force meetings so that important day to day issues can be addressed. In addition to that, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has also been seeking a meeting with senior federal officials to discuss a creative, reasonable, feasible proposal for an interim solution which would re-establish near-normal crossing conditions so that Akwesasne and Cornwall’s economic recovery can begin.
The MCA would like to re-iterate the following:
The MCA would like to clarify that this year there has only been one informal meeting with CBSA Executive Vice-President Luc Portelance. Aside from that one meeting in January with a senior CBSA official, there were a few meetings between technicians to discuss administrative matters about the Temporary Port of Entry in Cornwall.
Following the January meeting, the MCA had agreed to put a hold on legal proceedings against the CBSA in the spirit of good faith. This was to allow both sides to continue discussions aimed at resolving our differences. Unfortunately, there have been no formal negotiations of any kind between the CBSA and the MCA since then.
The MCA has asked the CBSA for more meetings, but has not received any commitments from Ottawa that would result in real dialogue leading to practical solutions. With the one-year anniversary of the CBSA’s decision to move their facility off Kawehnoke, we would have expected that more progress would have occurred by now. Problems cannot be solved if people don’t sit down to discuss potential solutions.
The MCA remains committed and available to be consulted on all options regarding the long-term location of Canada Customs. We look forward to contributing toward a proposal that is satisfactory to the Mohawks of Akwesasne and to our neighbouring communities.
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