Home News Minister makes first visit to Kahnawake

Minister makes first visit to Kahnawake

Courtesy Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

A new framework for the working relationship between Kahnawake and the federal government is ready to move forward, the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations signalled at an introductory meeting in Kahnawake last week.

The February 16 visit was minister Gary Anandasangaree’s first to the community since being announced as the new minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations in July, when Marc Miller was shuffled out of the position into his current post as Immigration minister.

“That was a long-standing relationship that we had with Marc Miller, developed over many years,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief Tonya Perron. “He had a lot of history behind him with Kahnawake in various roles. It’s definitely a big role to fill, especially following in Marc’s footsteps.”

She added that Anandasangaree seemed engaged and that his staff was present to help bridge the gap in terms of files dating back to Miller’s tenure.

“By the time I got there, he seemed to already be well briefed, but definitely a learning curve, like we all have to do in a new situation,” said Perron, who attended part of the meeting between MCK grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer and the minister. 

According to Perron, Anandasangaree said the federal government is prepared to formalize and sign the draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Kahnawake-Canada relations that has been in the works for months if not years, with plenty of back and forth.

The MOU, which will be the latest such agreement, but not the first, outlines an overarching Kahnawake-Canada relations table, a steering committee, and several sectoral tables that will focus on different topics, according to Perron.

The agreement identifies four priorities for immediate attention, including status registration, land management, environmental issues, and gaming. Justice, child and family services, fiscal relations, and economic development are also mentioned in the agreement.

Perron said it’s important to recognize that the MOU is a tool with which Kahnawake can assert its sovereignty rather than a sign of complacency with the federal government.

“It is a relationship document, but the whole thing is for us to be able to do what we need to do and for them to stay out of the way. We’re trying to move away from the whole federal Indian Act. We’re trying to move away from that sort of colonialistic relationship,” she said.

“This MOU is a step in that direction, to let us do what we need to do without having all kinds of interference, but also they still have certain responsibilities.”

The other agenda item at last week’s meeting was the MCK’s objections to Bill S-268, which purports to put First Nations on a level playing field when it comes to gaming but would actually limit Kahnawake’s operations.

“The way 268 is written right now, it would restrict a First Nation to manage online gaming on the reserve, and the way it’s written, it’s like you can only take players that are from your territorial area, so we would only be able to accept players that are on the reserve as well,” said Perron.

“It’s going to have detrimental impacts once again on our online gaming, on our rights to conduct gaming, and we’re allowing them once again to put us in that box of, here, you’re on your reserve and stick to your reserve and you can do whatever you want on your reserve but only on your reserve,” said Perron, who pointed out that Kahnawake’s traditional territory is much larger.

The bill is just one way governments have lately moved to interfere with Kahnawake’s online gaming operations, she said, after more than two decades without an issue. Just this week, Perron has been in Toronto to attend the MCK’s legal challenge to Ontario’s iGaming regime.

Although it wasn’t on the agenda, Perron took several minutes to brief the minister on the MCK’s issues with the government’s cannabis regulation. MCK chief Ross Montour was also on hand, taking the opportunity to explain the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis (SSSL) land grievance directly to the minister.

Anandasangaree also met with Quebec Native Women (QNW) while in Kahnawake.

“I think it’s important for QNW to present the minister with all the files we have in our organization,” said the organization’s president, Marjolaine Étienne. “Another important element is to raise awareness about the realities and issues Indigenous women across Quebec are currently facing.”

gmbankuti@gmail.com

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

This article was originally published in print on February 23 in issue 33.08 of The Eastern Door.

Marcus is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.

Previous articleIndigenous Services to exit Kahnawake 
Next article‘Sky Flowers’ exhibit brings on spring
Marcus is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.