By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A meeting last week between the federal government and the First Nations that make up the Jay Treaty Alliance was “a good start” to the notion of allowing members of those nations freedom to cross the Canada-U.S. border without being subject to customs, Kahnawake’s Grand Chief said earlier this week.
“There’s a commitment from the federal government to create a framework where that would be possible, but this meeting was only the first of many that we have to have in order to create that framework,” that would allow members of the Jay Treaty Alliance freedom to cross the border at will without being stopped by customs, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer.
Sky-Deer said the alliance’s high table plans meet every six months, and the governance table for the alliance would meet quarterly, she added.
“The end goal is either an amendment to legislation, or some kind of act of the government to allow for freedom of passage for First Nations. It’s a commitment and we have seen the government is committed also,” she said.
At last week’s meeting, held in Ottawa, Crown-Indigenous Affairs minister Marc Miller, Public Security minister Marco Mendecino and Immigration minister Sean Fraser were all on hand to get the process started for the Jay Treaty Alliance, made up largely of nations east of the Great Lakes, but including some western nations.
“(The government) is committed, and that’s a positive for us. The meeting was not exhaustive, that part is coming over the next little while, but we are optimistic,” Sky-Deer said.
Sky-Deer has been pretty clear, though. Thus far, the government has not yet lived up to its promises and the principles of the Jay Treaty, she said.
“Canada has not implemented the principles of the Jay Treaty,”
Sky-Deer said. “And Onkwehon:we from all across Turtle Island should be able to exercise freedom of passage and entitlement to benefits no matter what side of the line they reside or were born on.”
As a result of the 1794 Jay Treaty, the United States included in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 that “Native Indians born in Canada are therefore entitled to enter the United States for the purpose of employment, study, retirement, investing, and/or immigration.”
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the IORI:WASE. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.