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Norton opposed to tribunal mediation

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake grand chief Joe Norton said council’s position on membership is not going to change. (File photo)

According to Mohawk Council of Kahnawake grand chief Joe Norton,  council is not in favour of mediation with the five Kahnawa’kehró:non who lodged human rights complaints against them.

“What’s there to mediate?” said Norton. “I’m sorry, but there’s no compromise, so there’s nothing to mediate. Our position is packed and we’re not going to change.”

The complaints were filed in August of 2015 because the group feels they are being excluded from certain programs, services and benefits based on racial discrimination stemming from provisions in the Kahnawake Membership Law.

Following a yearlong investigation, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has decided to uphold complaints of five Kahnawa’kehró:non.

“The file was investigated by the Commission and referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal because inquiry was warranted in the allegations. Once the file is sent to Tribunal, they offer mediation,” said Carmen Devereaux, a communications advisor for the commission.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission gave parties until January 3 to decide whether they want to opt for mediation rather than litigation later this year.

“The mediation is facilitated by a Tribunal member. If a party declines mediation, the file then proceeds to hearing. The next steps include: case management conference to set key dates; exchange of disclosure between parties; dealing preliminary issues and eventually hearing,” said Devereaux. “Parties can request to return to mediation later in the process or continue settlement discussions amongst themselves.”

Although MCK press attaché Joe Delaronde said council met with their legal department to discuss the issue yesterday, no official response has been made.

“As we said just before the holiday, we were a little bit put off that they would send this notice that they need a response by January 3, which was kind of ridiculous,” said Delaronde.

Fo Niemi, the executive director at the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) in Montreal, said the complainants still remain open and hopeful to a mediation session, “in order to have a better idea of what the stakes are with the Tribunal and how the Canadian Human Rights Commission considers the cases.”

The five Kahnawa’kehró:non, who range from pre-teen to 50 years of age, approached Niemi’s team at CRARR for support to file the complaints.

They claim discrimination from community members and council because of their biracial backgrounds or because their partner is non-Native.

“Mediation is a constructive forum for initial dialogue, since the parties have not been able to engage in face-to-face discussions on the issues, even before the complaints were lodged,” said Niemi.

Norton sees things differently.

“We don’t consider them violations, we consider them to be the backbone of the community in terms of what we believe in and if somebody doesn’t fit the bill, then that’s too bad,” he said.

“I think in our actions, in our continued pursuit to identify and complete the Membership Law, which includes everything about the identity of our people – that speaks for itself.”

The Membership Law has been going through the Community Decision-Making Process for amendment since 2010.

Last year, council also proposed a separate residency law to go through the CDMP and spent time before the holidays surveying Kahnawa’kehró:non on the issue.

“It’s related to who’s who and that’s another avenue we’ve taken, and that speaks for itself too. Who can reside here, who can be a part of the community, the benefits and so on and so forth. That’s all covered.

“The decision has been made, it’s not the council’s decision, it’s the community’s decision,” said Norton.


This story was originally published in the January 13, 2017 issue of The Eastern Door. 

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Jessica Deer was a staff reporter from 2015-2018 who started out in 2008 as a summer student.