CBSA walks out on talks with Akwesasne

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The Akwesasne Mohawk Leadership Task Force travelled to Ottawa recently to meet with representatives of the CBSA.

During the middle of the discussion on seizures CBSA officials objected to the presence of MCA’s lawyer at the negotiation table despite the presence of their own legal representative. CBSA officials challenged the role of the MCA lawyer and attempted to force all the lawyers to leave the meeting.

When the Akwesasne Mohawk Leadership would not agree to the removal, the CBSA ended the meeting and walked out.

The counsels of the parties had agreed last Friday to attend the meeting and report on the prospects of the negotiation to the court.

During the meeting the Akwesasne Mohawk Leadership Task Force had raised grave concerns with CBSA that their seizure actions were detrimental to the negotiation process. While CBSA continues to stress their obligation under the Customs Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Akwesasne Leadership Task Force strongly reminded CBSA that they have a duty to consult and a duty to accommodate the rights and needs of the Akwesasne community. Handing out pamphlets and putting up billboards is not consultation.

The Akwesasne Leadership identified that the reporting requirement was placing undue burdens on all parts of the Akwesasne community and the delivery of essential governmental services, including health care, education, social services, cultural, work, etc.

The Akwesasne Mohawk Leadership Task Force has proposed alternative ways to report that CBSA is refusing to even consider. These alternative ways to report already exist at other ports so CBSA has the ability to accommodate Akwesasne leadership requests. “The seizure of vehicles from Mohawks has created a grave situation for the Akwesasne community,” said Grand Chief Mike Mitchell. “While CBSA has a statutory mandate, it must be balanced with their duty to consult and accommodate the aboriginal rights and interest of the Mohawks of Akwesasne.” “I am disappointed with the decision of CBSA and Government of Canada to end discussion with the Mohawks of Akwesasne,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. “I urge the Government of Canada to recognize the seriousness of the situation and agree to a mediation process.”

Organizations: CBSA, Akwesasne Mohawk Leadership

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada

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