Cooler heads needed on border discussion
The optimists could be forgiven for thinking that in the nine years that have passed since
Canada Border Services Agency officers left Akwesasne, tempers have cooled. Apparently not.
To refresh our memories, CBSA parted ways with Akwesasne in 2009 after the federal government decided border guards would be armed. For a First Nation already queasy with the idea of federal agents stationed on its territory, this was the final straw.
As of 2014, the port of entry sits along the north shore of the north channel of the St. Lawrence River. The move put island residents into a weird situation. Now, when crossing onto the north shore to do the routine things the rest of us take for granted, these individuals must report to CBSA.
As far as I’m aware, it’s the only area in this country where, to cross from one part of Canada to another, you must pass through a port of entry.
It also has meant an inconvenience for those entering Cornwall Island from the U.S.— if they intend to stay on the island, they must report to CBSA in Cornwall, go through the process of crossing the U.S./Canada border, then return to the island.
Many of these residents are simply commuting from one part of Akwesasne to another.
Over the years these scenarios have been in place, we’ve occasionally covered when things have gone wrong. Court cases and convictions have been meted for those who don’t report to CBSA.
Not that CBSA officers have come off as saints here either. The highest-profile recent example was that of Antoine Delormier, who had an incident with CBSA officers while travelling from the island to Cornwall Community Hospital that worsened his health.
The MCA has been working, it says, to resolve these irritants. When some progress was shared with the community at a recent MCA general meeting, it only provided an opportunity to show the animosity between CBSA officers and Akwesasne persists.
Customs and Immigration Union president Jean-Pierre Fortin didn’t help, throwing ice water on the proposal for a remote check-in station on the island that could resolve one of the challenges. That he painted our border’s port of entry as the wild west, with its security challenged by island residents on a daily basis, lacks credibility and only inflames the situation.
The telling statement of lingering animosity was Fortin’s referral to the “bad experience” of the past. Sorry, but that’s a poor excuse not to consider options that would help erase a more stringent border between Akwesasne and Cornwall.
In the spirit of reconciliation and with respect, cooler heads must prevail as the discussions on these matters between the
MCA and CBSA continue.
— Hugo Rodrigues