Re: Tobacco faceoff looms - Contraband crackdown may spark native 'confrontation' John Ivison, National Post Published: Friday, May 09, 2008
Mr Ivison,The payments to First Nations by our Canadian governments are required by our treaties with Indigenous Nations, treaties that allow us to live on their land. In partial return, we pay health, education and some other costs, a more palatable way for Canada to pay some of its debts, but always insufficiently. The treaties provide the only legal right we Canadians have to live in this land we call 'Canada', and they are also the laws that define our border with the U.S. Without the treaties of Indigenous Peoples with the Queen, Canada has no legal land mass, no sovereignty, no country. Too bad you didn't (have the nerve to?) share your opinion about the money with Mike Delisle. He would have easily set you straight about the money to their communities.
Contraband crackdown may spark native 'confrontation'
John Ivison, National Post Published: Friday, May 09, 2008
Peter Redman/National PostNative groups consider cigarette manufacturing on reserves to be a legitimate enterprise under their legal system and warn against federal government intervention.
OTTAWA -Grand Chief Mike Delisle of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake expects "some kind of confrontation" if the Conservative government acts on its pledge to crack down on contraband tobacco, which has become big business on many native reserves.
The reason is that Mohawks on the reserve south of Montreal do not recognize Canadian law and insist the manufacture of cigarettes is legitimate under their legal system. If the feds think otherwise, they will have to negotiate with the Mohawk Council, Chief Delisle said. "We are a government and we expect to be dealt with on a nation to nation basis."
The Mohawks abide by the "two row wampum" treaty negotiated with the Dutch in the 1600s. This agreement is symbolized by a belt with two lines that run parallel but never meet.
"Our doctrine is two boats travelling down the same river that never intersect and which live in peaceful co-existence but do not impose laws on one another," Chief Delisle said.
Stirring stuff, but somewhat undermined by a closer look at the facts. The Mohawks of Kahnawake, Bay of Quinte, Akwesasne, the Six Nations and Tyendinaga might see themselves as sovereign jurisdictions, beholden to no one, but it doesn't stop them taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers.
In the case of Kahnawake, which has a resident population of about 7,000, Ottawa shipped in $48-million in 2006-07 -- $7-million for schools, $7.3-million for infrastructure and housing, $5-million for social development and $4.2-million for health. The Mohawks of Akwesasne, the centre of the contraband tobacco industry, received $41.6-million in the same year.
This sits incongruously with Chief Delisle's contention that the Mohawks have never been citizens of Canada. "We consider Canada to be outside the realm of our confederacy," he said.
Incidents at Caledonia and Deseronto in Ontario have sparked fears of a repeat of the Oka Crisis of 1990, when the Kahnawake Mohawks blockaded the Mercier Bridge into Montreal. Chief Delisle said that, despite escalating tensions with the federal government, he did not think the situation was as grave as at the time of Oka. "We're still willing to talk. I don't think we're facing 1990 now, even though there is an expectation we'll say we'll block the bridge, which is not the case."
But he warned there will be a "problem" if the RCMP or Surete du Quebec raids the reserve to shut down tobacco manufacturers. "The community won't sit back and be run over.... There is likely to be some kind of confrontation -- I just hope it's not physical," he said.
There have been occasions in the recent past in which the local police force has cooperated with other law enforcement agencies. A joint operation in March netted 29 people and seized $3-million in cash, drugs and firearms. "There was a positive response here to make it into a safer place. This isn't a lawless society," he said.
Nevertheless, the federal government and the Mohawk Council have very different views of what passes for legitimate business. In addition to tobacco manufacture and distribution, Kahnawake plays host to 400 or so Internet sports betting sites that Ottawa considers illegal. In March, Rob Nicholson, the Minister of Justice, said he had asked officials to look at ways to "enforce the Criminal Code provisions ... with other measures" -- which most took to mean looking at how to restrict banks and credit card companies from conducting business with sites such as those based at Kahnawake.
Chuck Strahl, the Indian Affairs Minister, has portrayed relations between Ottawa and Canada's aboriginal communities as largely harmonious, marred only by "specific problems that are proving difficult" on a couple of reserves in Ontario. A short chat with Chief Delisle would disabuse him of that notion. Confrontation is coming.