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The Kahnawake tobacco law tug of war

The draft Kahnawake Tobacco Law faces another fumble on the way to the finish line, as the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) and the Kahnawake Tobacco Association (KTA) respond to the Longhouses’ opposition to the draft law.
Last week, the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake Longhouse published a press release stating the MCK does not have the legitimacy to enact or enforce a tobacco law because the council is a colonial construct of Canada, and not a part of the traditional Rotinonhsion:ni Confederacy, established through the Kaianere’kó:wa.
In the release, the Longhouse claims the MCK does not have legitimate political jurisdiction to “enact a law that regulates a rights-based issue.”
“The tobacco industry benefits from the sovereignty established through the Kaianere’kó:wa and the Rotinonhsion:ni (Confederacy), and the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation and Kahnawake serves as the custodians of that sovereignty as it is applied to the territory of Kahnawake. This makes it a rights based issue,” the People of the Longhouse shared in a statement to The Eastern Door.
“The whole history about the MCK and the Band Council, and our traditional government, nobody is disputing that,” said MCK chief Cody Diabo. On the Longhouse’s opposition, he stated the release contained a misconception that the law was formulated under the council.
“It’s not an MCK tobacco law. It was a law that was drafted by members of the industry,” said Diabo. “This is the only law that there’s actually an MOU signed between the MCK and members of the industry… stating that it was their law and they were bringing it forward.”
A Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) is a formal agreement that outlines an action plan between two or more parties.
“There’s been a need to clarify the whole situation, that some people think we’re coming in, we’re drafting the law, we’re taxing it and we’re not doing any of that, we’re just facilitating the process, that’s all.”
On November 3, the MCK responded to the opposition in a press release, stating the Peacekeepers would not coercively enforce the law, but the regulations will be “administered by an independent body to be known as the Kahnawake Tobacco Regulatory Commission.”
While the draft law was reviewed and reached consensus during the Community Decision Making Process (CDMP) hearings in 2014-2015, community members expressed the need to further revise the law to ensure these certain portions were consistent with other laws and to address possible legal issues.
Seven years later, the Kahnawake Legislative Coordinating Commission (KLCC) finalized the draft for the Kahnawake tobacco law, leaving highlighted sections meant for revision by the Technical Drafting Committee for the MCK, the KTA, and community members.
Following the announcement, the council held a community engagement session to include feedback from Kahnawa’kehró:non, while the longhouse released their formal opposition to the draft law on October 26.
Diabo asserted he is focused on encouraging collaboration between community members on the draft law going forward.
“We want to work towards reestablishing ourselves,” he said. “The MCK is not the end of everything, this is just a step to get to what the community wants. That’s what we have to ask ourselves, and it starts with talking to each other.”

Hadassah Alencar
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