AKWESASNE – Recent comments by Quebec provincial leaders regarding the possibility of Quebec leaving Canada have led to a First Nation backlash. Some Mohawk band councils wasted no time in putting their two cents in following the referendum speculation. The Quebec provincial election takes place on Monday, April 7, 2014.
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) came out of the chutes first with a media release on the matter. The MCA informed the public that their federally-funded government would hold their own referendum on secession if the province of Quebec went its own way.
“If Quebec ultimately chooses to separate, I would advise our Council and community to hold our own vote in order to determine whether we would stay within the borders of Quebec or separate ourselves,” said MCA Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell in the statement.
The next day, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawa:ke (MCK) also offered their own response to the possibility of a Parti Quebecois majority government in Quebec.
“We absolutely will not recognize the authority of a Quebec nation,” Kahnawa:ke Mohawk Chief Mike Delisle said in published reports. “We don’t normally weigh in on provincial or federal politics, but the prospect of a referendum is disturbing to us. It undermines our historic claims to nationhood,” stated the Grand Chief of Kahnawa:ke. Census estimates place the number of First Nation citizens at over 100,000 within Quebec, including Mohawk, Cree, Innu and Inuit nations.
“Quebec can decide what it wants in terms of its culture, its identity and its development,” said Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador. “But it cannot claim sovereignty over a territory which still fundamentally belongs to First Nations.”
The political rhetoric has not gone unnoticed by members of the Kanienkeha:ka longhouses.
“How can a federally-controlled band council secede from anything when it is reliant upon an outside government for funding?” wondered Andy Rahionhanon:na Kader (Turtle Clan), who has ties in both Kahnawake and Akwesasne. “This does not pass the smell test,” stated Kader.
The relationships between the MCA and the MCK with Quebec have often left their band members uneasy with the costs of such alliances.
In 2012, MCK Chief Lloyd Phillips advocated for the assistance of the Quebec provincial police Surete du Quebec (SQ) to train a special weapons and tactics unit (SWAT) of the Kahnawa:ke Peacekeepers. The request was made to combat “organized crime” alleged to have infiltrated the Kahnawa:ke Reserve.
Both band memberships were targeted in 1994 during planning for the aborted “Operation Scorpion Saxon.” That plan saw invasion orders drawn up that included 2,000 SQ officers, as well as members of the RCMP and the Canadian armed forces. The operation was sidelined when readiness training secrecy was lost. The effort was later minimized into an anti-tobacco measure. Surveillance of the reserves by the secretive Canadian military unit known as Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) was included in this planning.
All of this stinks, according to Andy Kader. “We need to see some real guts displayed within the Kanienkehaka homeland of Kanienke. There are too many people who are just getting by who seem resigned that this is the best that we can carve out of the present political atmosphere. We need to thrive to survive in the Twenty-First century,” Kader remarked.
The father of three has studied the independent economic options for Kahnawake and Akwesasne. Most involve a usage of the St. Lawrence River. “International port authorities could be formed at Akwesasne and at Kahnawake to assist with the movement of goods between the communities. The safety inspection of ships in the international waterway could be imposed in that zone. An export code for Kanienke also could be applied for. International goods could then be imported directly to each Kanienkehaka port of entry,” explained Kader. “We could even export our own industries that way,” he said. “That is the only true way to independence, if we can feed and pay our own people to work for our people. Otherwise we are beans to be counted by another government, like it is now.”
Author’s note – Charles Kader the writer and Andy Kader the interview subject are related and from the same family. They are brothers.