BAND MEETING. At A Indian Act band council meeting June 16th, Joe Norton announced to the 40 or so people present that he was asserting Mohawk sovereignty. He was attacking Quebec interference with Mohawk jurisdiction. The next day the press announced that the Mohawks are asserting sovereignty over the Montreal South Shore, taking control of highways, railways and waterways and declaring Kahnawake a duty free zone.
This is Norton's reaction to Quebec's latest attempt to violate Canadian law that affirms Aboriginal tax-free jurisdiction. The tobacco tax laws announced last week are intended to stop the sale of tax-free cigarettes on Indigenous territories by collecting tobacco taxes through the manufacturers rather than the sellers. It fails to include any measure to respect Canada's tax-free jursidction to tax on Aboriginal territories.
Joe Norton had previously admitted negotiating a secret deal with the Quebec government for Byron Horn of Club Rez to pay a lower rate of tax for selling cigarettes. Though he said this was meant to take account of Kahnwake's independent jurisdiction, the negotiation was for one person, not for everyone. Norton is diverting attention from his invitation to Quebec to illegally collect taxes on Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. Many, however, suspect his stance is related to his running for re-election in July. By failing to adequately consult the people he is taking a position which is not his to take.
Canada and Quebec are outrageously abusing Mohawk, promoting the idea that cigarettes which are being sold according to Mohawk laws are "contraband". As for the sale of arms near Kahnawake, why is it in the press at the same time? The gun purchase in question was made in December 1997. If they had a real concern, why did they wait so long to do something about it? The police are giving the public a false impression that there are arms in Kahnawake. They continue to push the contemptuous Mohawk stereotype they have created. Kahnawake is a peaceful law-abiding family-oriented community that has seen its share of Mohawk bashing. Men, women, grandparents and grandchildren live there with no fear at all.
Joe Norton is correct when he says that the Mohawk Nation has a right to take control of its territory. But this control must be exercised by the true traditional government that represents the people and not by the band council that represents the Canadian government.
BACK TO BASICS. The Indian Act band council was illegally imposed on Kahnawake by a Canadian Government Order in Council based on the uninformed consent of 14 people. Canada reversed this number to 41, making it look like there was majority support. The order in council should have been revoked following the 1978 referendum in which a majority of the electors voted to return to the true traditional government of the Mohawk. Why doesn't the Canadian government respect democracy? The band council is not legitimate! Canada can resolve this by respecting the will of the people and dealing with the traditional government instead of the illegally imposed band council.
At the band council meeting Norton said that he was operating as a customary council but had not asked Ottawa to revoke the Order in Council that created the band council. The Indian Act can only operate on land that has been ceded. Kahnawake was never ceded. This means he is either operating under an illegally imposed band council system, or he is operating as a custom council without revoking the order in council.
CANADA DRAGGING ITS FEET. Why does Canada drag its feet about the order in council that supports the illicit band council? When can the Confederacy Council come back so the people are properly represented? Both Canada and Quebec could prevent confrontations by respecting true Mohawk Nation jurisdiction. If they continue to deal with people like Joe Norton, they will feed the desperation all Mohawk feel about thelack of recognition of the laws of this peaceful nation.
Norton violates the basis of Mohawk culture. Women are the titleholders of the land at Kahnawake and Joe Norton has not consulted the women even though his measures in0volve land use.
CANADA IS IN CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Canada can diffuse the situation by separating itself from the paternalistic mistakes that were made in the past and recognize that it is in a conflict of interest. Canada and the Mohawk should present the jurisdictional issues to an impartial international mediator, through the United Nations or another international organization.
REACTION IN KAHNAWAKE. The press is making it look like the people of Kahnawake are in favour of the band council's actions. Said one person, a supporter of the Longhouse, "This is not so. Over 80% are traditional people who are working towards reestablishing the Longhouse as their governing body. We are angry about the Gazette (June 18th) making it sound like traditional spokesperson, Karonhiahente of the Mohawk Nation Office, made a statement that we support Joe Norton's actions to collect taxes at "toll booths and other fee collecting measures". This makes it look like there is collusion between the Longouse and the band council. As far as I know, the Longhouse people do not support the band council. We learned in 1990 what happens when we work together. To this day Norton condemns us for closing the bridge in 1988 and 1990 and running a bingo. Now they want to open up a casino. The people who support the band council system voted against having a casino in a referendum in 1994 and this vote still stands. He constantly accuses us of causing civil unrest. Now it sounds like we are forgetting all about the Great Law of Peace, our constitution, jeopardizing everything we stand for. Supporting the band council in any way erodes our rights. Have they lost sight of what this is all about - the secret taxation agreement that Joe Norton negotiated with the Quebec government to bring Quebec jurisdiction onto Mohawk territory?"
The Mohawk Nation Office states that Karonhiakente was misquoted by the Gazette and have issued a statement clarifying their position on taxation.
Mohawk Nation News (MNN)
P.O. Box 991, Kahnawake Mohawk Territory (Quebec, Canada) J0L 1B0