Nov 5/98: Court backs Mohawks not paying duty


The Globe and Mail
November 5, 1998 p. A10
Canadian Press

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Cornwall, Ont. - Mohawks of the Akwesasne native reserve have a right to cross the Canadian-US border without paying duties, the Federal Court of Appeal confirmed yesterday. The federal government had appealed a 1997 ruling that Mohawks had the constitutional right to bring into Canada goods bought in the United States without paying duty. Grand Chief Mike Mitchell of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne said in a news release yesterday that the decision reconfirmed the aboriginal right to cross the border without payment of duties and taxes, including the GST.

"We anticipate that Canada will appeal to the Supreme Court," Mr. Mitchell said in the release. "However, it has been our experience that with each level of the court process in Canada our case gets stronger due to the fact that the Canadian court system has supported our decision."

About 7,500 people live on the Akwesasne reserve, which is split in half by the Canadian-US border near Cornwall. The Mohawk Council governs the Canadian part. The case started in March, 1988, when Mr. Mitchell loaded a truck with personal goods and crossed into Canada from the United States. He refused to pay $361.64 in duties, and was charged under the Customs Act. "We are fighting this issue on two fronts," he said. "One is a legal process and the other is the political process."

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