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Petition grows for cameras in town 

The Peacekeepers’ station is located by one of the main entrances to town, where community members are advocating for the installation of cameras to monitor those coming into the community. Eve Cable The Eastern Door

A petition calling for the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at all major entrances and exits to Kahnawake has already surpassed 200 signatures, with community members seeking increased surveillance of non-locals entering the community.  

“I got anxious and tired of seeing all of the people reporting scary incidents happening in our community,” said Kaniehtiio Horn, who started the petition on Tuesday. “I am a mother and an auntie, and I am concerned about the welfare of our children and community members.” 

Horn said she started considering the benefits of CCTV cameras a few weeks ago, when a non-local was following a young girl near her mother’s home. The girl had run to a neighbour for help, and Peacekeepers had asked for camera footage from Horn’s mother’s own private CCTV which faces the road, to help in their investigation.  

“This seems like a natural progression. It seems like it is something that is needed in order for the Peacekeepers to continue to patrol the community for our people’s safety,” she said. “It’s an added tool that would only help us all in the long run.” 

Community member Konwahahawi Hemlock said she was glad to sign the petition, which is formally directed towards the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) and the Kahnawake Peacekeepers. 

“Anybody who’s coming here with ill intentions, they’ll be notified that they’re being watched, and hopefully they’ll think twice,” Hemlock said. “I’m hopeful that the powers that be in this community will take it seriously and make a step forward in upping security.” 

Hemlock said that Kahnawake is a different place than it was when she was growing up, and that the community must act to make sure Kahnawake stays safe for the next seven generations.  

“I have a 13-year-old daughter who goes to the Youth Center and goes to her friends’ houses, and I want her to feel as safe as I did when I was 13. I could get on my bike and ride across town and not have to worry,” she said. 

“This is for our futures, for our children and our grandchildren. Our parents and grandparents fought to keep us safe, so it’s our responsibility to do the same for our kids. It’s our little home. We have to protect it.” 

Not everybody agrees that CCTV cameras are the solution to the lack of monitoring of non-locals in the community. Kenneth Dailleboust said that he has concerns that CCTV footage could be a privacy concern for those who live here. 

He pointed to joint operations that the Peacekeepers conduct with the Surete du Quebec (SQ) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), when those with warrants for their arrest are found in Kahnawake. 

“If the RCMP or the SQ were looking for somebody, I’m sure the Peacekeepers could hand over hours and hours of footage to them to look through for the person who has a warrant, but it doesn’t stop them from looking at the thousands of other cars and people that are coming and going,” he said.  

Dailleboust also pointed out that many stores in Kahnawake rely on non-locals’ business to stay afloat and questioned whether mass surveillance would be the solution to safety concerns. 

“Our economy is based off of people coming and going, so it’s hard just to ban everybody from coming in. We can’t say ‘keep them out’ because it’ll have an effect on our stores,” he said.  

Bringing back checkpoints in the community, where officers could physically stop those entering Kahnawake and understand directly their intentions, might be a better solution, said Dailleboust. But Hemlock pointed out that checkpoints might not be possible, with so many cars passing through the community daily. 

“Right now, the feasibility of having checkpoints isn’t really there. It’s a different time and people don’t have the time to do it,” she said. “The next best option is the cameras.” 

Though the petition hasn’t been formally given to the Peacekeepers or the MCK, Peacekeepers spokesperson Kyle Zachary said he welcomes the idea. 

“I think it would be very helpful to have cameras like that around the territory. There have been a few times where we’ve had to utilize security footage from businesses or residences to help with certain files,” he said. “The more coverage we have, the more beneficial it is for us.” 

Zachary noted that in terms of privacy concerns, outside services would not be investigating occurrences that take place in Kahnawake. He does, however, see one key obstacle to installing cameras in the community – cost.   

“It comes with a significant price tag,” he said, adding that the decision to install the cameras would have to come from MCK’s Public Safety Division. “There’s a lot of questions that would need to be answered before it could move forward.” 

Multiple calls per day come through the Peacekeepers phone lines, Zachary said, and there’s a marked concern about non-local presence in the community, particularly pertaining to dangerous driving. 

“We get over 150,000 cars a day coming through our territory just to access the bridge,” he said. “It’s been even worse since construction season started.” 

Horn said the CCTV systems would also allow for officers to stop reckless drivers more efficiently.  

“There’s people driving extremely dangerously through our streets, and they should know that if they do that, their license plates are being recorded, and that they will be penalized for putting our community members in danger.” 

MCK portfolio chief Ryan Montour said the idea of installing cameras isn’t new, and that there was a pilot project in the early 2000s. 

“I think we could deter situations that could happen in our community. Those cameras would be an extra layer of defense, but we also have to think about the privacy of certain businesses in town,” he said.  

Montour said that though the MCK hasn’t been formally presented with the petition, they’d take the request seriously if and when the petition reaches their table. 

“If the community of Kahnawake wants this, we’ll definitely look into it,” he said.  

Horn said it’s imperative community members agree upon where cameras would be installed, with cameras never monitoring houses directly but instead pointed towards major intersections and access points to private roads. 

CCTV should also be an added tool for Peacekeepers protecting the community, rather than a surveillance tool to monitor locals’ activity, and the priority of the project should always be the safety of those who live in town, Horn added. 

She said that though she was apprehensive to make the petition, she’s appreciative of the support it’s garnered so far. 

“I feel confident in the number of signatures already. It is very nerve-racking speaking up within this community, but so many people have messaged me with words of support and thanking me for taking some form of action,” she said.  

The petition can be found on change.org. 

evedcable@gmail.com 

This article was originally published in print on May 17 in issue 33.20 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.