Kahnawake-Quebec relations move forward

·3 min read

After months of complex negotiations with the province, the long-overdue meeting between the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer and Quebec premier Francois Legault is one step closer to becoming a reality.

On April 11, the Council formally approved the Statement of Understanding and Mutual Respect and the Framework Agreement between the Quebec government and the MCK.

“After months of back and forth between the Quebec team and our team, we presented the final draft of the Framework Agreement for negotiations,” said MCK chief Mike Delisle, who is the portfolio lead of the External Government Relations file.

“Council agreed to support the document, and we have informed Quebec through negotiator Geoff Kelley and his team. I have also informed the minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière.”

According to the chief, the agreement is now in cabinet process, and the meeting between both leaders is contingent on the province approving it.

If approved, both governments would have to move quickly to coordinate the meeting before the Quebec general election in October.

“Council is hopeful to hear back in about a month from now. Our understanding, through Geoffrey Kelley and the negotiating team, is that all of this has already passed through Justice Quebec and the recommendation now comes from the negotiating team and the minister to provide to the cabinet,” said the chief.

The MCK previously ratified a Memorandum of Understanding, and it is now in the hands of the Quebec government.

The renewal of the relationship framework with the province was identified as a key political priority in both the previous Council and the current one because it is necessary to further Kahnawake’s interest in many high-profile portfolios, including the Mercier Bridge and cannabis.

“For them to engage with Kahnawake, most of the issues that have been at play for the past three-and-a-half years have been put into words,” said Delisle.

“I won’t say completely confirmed, but now this is proof in the pudding - if they are going to approve this, that means that they are looking to engage with Kahnawake in a meaningful way.” In terms of the Mercier Bridge, Delisle explained that Council is looking to revisit the 1999 agreement and renegotiate the terms related to transport and user fees.

“The issue has always been the recognition factor of jurisdiction. It’s an outstanding issue between governments, whether it be federal or provincial, municipal and Indigenous across this country,” he explained.

“That is the crux of all of this. Whenever we are in disagreement on any subject matter - the environment comes to mind because we have had issues in the recent past in terms of the ministry of environment and our environmental protection office here in the community.”

The lack of engagement by the province and the premier’s office has also made it difficult to reach agreements on economic development and on files that involve Justice Quebec.

“Now, we have a forum to formally engage, and hopefully, these ministers will give it the support and political clout needed for us to make substantial progress. It’s a matter of recognition and jurisdiction, as the documents say,” said the chief.

Additionally, Delisle said that the MCK hopes that Quebec’s newest budget will include the next phase of the Aboriginal Initiatives Fund for economic development.

“We have other areas of mutual concern not only with Kahnawake but some of the surrounding municipalities to address the shortfalls and economic development for the region. So, I think that is a positive,” said Delisle.

marisela.amador88@gmail.com

Marisela Amador, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting