CFN – The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on Monday, February 13, 2012 at the Federal Court in Ottawa, Ontario. The signing of the MOU settled the court proceedings brought in 2008 by the MCA against the federal Minister of National Revenue over the CRA’s issuance of licenses for the manufacture of tobacco products on Akwesasne Territory.
The MOU is the product of two years of negotiations with the CRA that occurred under the supervision of Justice Francois Lemieux, of the Federal Court.
Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell noted,
“The negotiations were initiated due to an action that the MCA took to remind Revenue Canada that Akwesasne also has jurisdiction and laws that are exercised for the protection of the community.” He added, “The Memorandum of Understanding is an important result of those negotiations as it ensures that Government of Canada will continue to recognize Akwesasne’s authority to determine our community’s social and economic development.”
The MOU recognizes the 2005 Political Protocol between the MCA and the Government of Canada, the purpose of which is to support the social and economic development of the community of Akwesasne and to negotiate arrangements to facilitate the exercise of jurisdiction by the MCA. Importantly, the MOU contains recognition of Akwesasne laws, in particular those laws and approval processes related to the manufacture of tobacco products in Akwesasne.
The purpose of the MOU is to establish a framework for the exchange of information between the MCA and CRA, regarding the CRA’s role in the issuance of licenses to manufacture tobacco products in Akwesasne.
Kanata:kon District Chief Rachel Roundpoint pointed out that the community consultation process that MCA undertook before signing the MOU was essential. The MCA held a special focus meeting attended by legal counsel to explain the MOU and answer questions. Further consultations were undertaken at district meetings in December, 2011. “Transparency and openness are very important to the MCA and the community,” observed Chief Roundpoint. “The negotiations under the Federal Court are confidential, so we worked out a solution to ensure that community members had the opportunity to read the MOU and have their questions answered.” As a further measure of transparency, on January 28, 2011, Council voted on the approval of the MOU at a General Meeting, which was attended by members of the community.
After the MOU was signed by the MCA and CRA, Justice Lemieux approved the MOU and discontinued the legal proceedings by order of the Court. Justice Lemieux congratulated the parties on the MOU and stressed the MOU’s significance as a model of how First Nations and federal authorities can coordinate and cooperate to obtain mutual objectives. These negotiations are considered a success for both parties involved.