By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Cultural sensitivity training is back in the forefront of Akwesasne and Canadian Border Services Agency relations.
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) issued a community notice on Monday (Jan. 26) about four new CBSA guards assigned to the Port of Entry in Cornwall.
According to the statement: “these guards have not yet received cultural sensitivity training and their line of questioning may be intrusive.”
Akwesasne residents have been asked to: “be brief and accurate in responding to questions, and declare any and all items purchased in the U.S.”
CBSA spokesman Chris Kealey confirmed that the border agency reached out to the MCA’s Aboriginal Rights and Research Office in Nov. 2014 to select dates for its new officers to receive the training, but those dates have yet to be confirmed.
MCA stated in the notice that a new cultural sensitivity training session is scheduled for this spring.
Kealy said the following initiative was introduced to enhance border-relations and service delivery strategies:
Over a two-year period, a team from the CBSA Training and Development Directorate conducted in-depth research on the history of Akwesasne and interviewed border services officers (BSO) at the Cornwall Port of Entry (POE), MCA members, and elders from the community.
“Solutions to address the issues were explored, researched, developed and piloted, resulting in an online eLearning product providing facts and historical data about the community of Akwesasne,” said Kealey. “This learning product has enhanced cultural knowledge about this community.”
In addition to hiring aboriginal CBSA officers, the border agency also introduced an Aboriginal Liaison Officer (ALO) in June 2011.
Kealey described the ALO position as “the first of its kind” developed by the CBSA in conjunction with the MCA in Cornwall. The ALO has reportedly participated in Akwesasne community events, delivered presentations to the MCA and stakeholders on the CBSA’s role and responsibilities, issued information bulletins pertaining to border issues, and has assisted the community with understanding the CBSA’s complaint process.
MCA representatives were unavailable for comment.
On June 1, 2009, CBSA abandoned the former post within the Mohawk reserve, as hundreds of residents gathered to protest the imminent arming of its guards within their territory.
Akwesasne residents who encounter an issue with CBSA are being asked to report it to MCA’s Community Advocate on CBSA complaints Wesley Benedict at 613-936-1548 Ext. 1031 or 613-551-6999.