Membership issues in Kahnawake

Non-band members residing on Kahnawake Mohawk territory with their band members spouses is still broiling hot. Last week another family was targeted by a group of band members protesting outside their home and insisting they leave immediately.

Amanda Deer, her non-band member boyfriend and their 11 year old son opted to leave the territory temporarily as they were becoming afraid for their safety if they remained in their home.

Deer reported to CBC News and other national media sources that residents of Kahnawake were aggressively attempting to remove the family of three – trying to kick down her back door and shouting obscenities, demanding they leave.

However, according to a statement from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) the non-band member, identified as Denis Thauvette, was released from prison and inappropriately ordered by the courts to remain in on Kahnawake as one of the conditions of his release. This order was given even though Thauvette is not a band member or non-member resident of that community.

Community members were offended by the court order, and concerned for the safety of their community. “This is a situation where a community is upset that an individual with a lengthy criminal record who uttered threats against a family was released with unacceptable conditions,” said Grand Chief Michael Ahríhron Delisle, Jr. “While the Membership situation is brought up in every media report, this incident should be more truthfully reported for what it is: an issue of safety and security. The fact that Mr. Thauvette is neither a member nor a non-member resident compounded the situation.”

Following the frustrations by the communtiy, MCK announced that Thauvette was arrested by the Kahnawake Peacekeepers and removed from Kahnawake. He was also charged with criminal harassment of a Kahnawà:ke resident and his family, possession of a controlled substance and several breaches of conditions.

Kahnawake’s Grand Chief Micheal Delisle said court workers need to realize issuing an order for non-band members to remain on the territory is not going to be acceptable for the band or it’s membership.

The residency issue on Kahnawake has gotten national attention in the last week. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt had some strong opinions on the residency issue surrounding Kahnawake, calling the residency by-law “racist and unacceptable in this country”.

Valcourt’s statement was a clear indication that the minister himself may not fully understand the complexities behind on-reserve residency issues and raises questions about how capable he is to act as Aboriginal Affairs minister.

Grand Chief Delisle responded to Valcourt’s statement in a statement issued on the weekend saying, “It is difficult to articulate just how irresponsible and insidious his comments are. Because he is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, most Canadians will assume that he is speaking from a position of intimate knowledge of Kahnawà:ke. The truth is a whole different matter.”

Chief Delisle continued saying, “By wading into a situation that he knows very little of, he is giving Canadians a very skewed picture – one painted with the broad strokes of ignorance rather than one respecting the subtleties and intricacies that are demanded of a man in his position.”

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