Mendicino hears from MCK on Indigenous concerns

By Marc Lalonde

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Balancing Indigenous rights and concerns with the need to curb gun violence is a delicate balance and ongoing dialogue provides the best opportunity for Indigenous voices to be heard at the federal level, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Grand Chief said last Wednesday during a meeting with the federal Public Safety minister in Kahnawake.

Federal Public Safety minister Marco Mendicino stopped by the MCK’s offices Wednesday afternoon to discuss a number of issues of concern _ chief among them being Indigenous traditions of hunting and trapping, MCK Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said.

“It’s really important to mention how happy we are to be able to meet with the minister in person,” she said. “This kind of meeting is extremely important and we are grateful to be able to meet with the minister, share our concerns and have productive dialogue.”

First on the meeting’s agenda was Bill C-21, a new federal gun-control law that some in the Indigenous community find to be draconian. Mendicino said the law’s intent is partly inspired by a desire to put a permanent end to mass shootings.

“I’m glad to be here and to meet with council,” he said.

“Obviously, it’s important for us to find a happy medium because we know there are a lot of hunters across Canada and we understand their concerns. We know First Nations have concerns, too. We also know that we have to do whatever we can to end the scourge of gun violence, on the other hand.”

Sky-Deer hoped to be able to impress upon Mendicino that in Indigenous traditions, weapons used in hunting are often passed down from generation to generation and that weapon is imbued with the spirits of the animals whose lives it took.

“Obviously, hunting and our relationship with the earth is very important and we hope that he will take into consideration that aspect of Indigenous culture,” Sky-Deer added.

Bill C-21 originally proposed a national freeze on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns by individuals in Canada, and would put an end to bringing newly-acquired handguns into Canada as of October 21, 2022. Legal ownership of handguns remains legal, and individuals can continue to possess and use their registered handguns and can sell or transfer their registered handguns to exempted individuals or businesses.

Amendments, which were recently dropped, would have expanded the scope of the ban to include many riffles and long guns used for hunting.

Requests submitted by individuals before October 21, 2022 to transfer a handgun within Canada will continue to be processed.

Other topics discussed included the Jay Treaty Alliance and the rights of Indigenous people to cross the Canada-U.S. border without being subject to customs.

“It’s been a great collaboration so far, but there is still work to be done,” Mendicino said. The discussions will also have to involve CBSA, he added.

The minister said dialogue would be the key to moving forward together on the law.

“I’m excited about working closely with Kahnawake to find a path forward. Obviously, we want to see an end to school shootings and mass shootings. That’s something no parent in Canada should ever have to live through,” he said. “We’re committed to dialogue with Kahnawake and we are concerned with the perspective of First Nations.’

 Marc Lalonde is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. The LJI program is federally funded.


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