Kahnawake animal law dog-eared for another day

A public hearing necessary for the enactment of a new Animal Control Law was cancelled due to a lack of participation.

“For me, it’s a little bit personal,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief Ryan Montour, who leads the public safety portfolio. “My very first letter I wrote as a sitting Council chief was to the victim of a dog bite. I noticed this law is needed.”

While Montour is pleased community members provided substantial public feedback about animal control regulations during the first phase of the Community Decision Making and Review Process (CDMRP), he was disappointed to see a lack of in-person participation hold back the advancement of the regulations.

“The community for years has asked for their voice to be heard. This is their chance to speak their voices and to be heard,” he said. The hearing, which had been planned for November 29, is expected to be rescheduled for mid-January.

The law was last repealed and replaced in 2002. As it stands, animal control officers in the community have limited intervention powers and lack the authority to issue fines. Efforts to reshape the law are years in the making, with the process derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic but lately getting back on track.

Public Safety commissioner Lloyd Phillips said a survey done by his predecessor revealed that the community had wanted to see better enforceability of the law. “We’ve picked up that piece, made some changes, amended the law with the working group, and here we have it. If the community wants to see laws effective and efficient, this is it,” he said.

According to MCK chief Tonya Perron, part of the advisory committee for the Kahnawake Legislative Commission (KLC) that manages the CDMRP, there is a lack of clarity on how to proceed if there is insufficient participation in public hearings.

“There has to be something included in the procedural manual to say what happens,” she said. “What is the next step if you don’t get enough community participation?” The manual is also unclear on how many Kahnawa’kehró:non need to participate for that bar to be met, she noted.

Perron shares Montour’s feeling of disappointment in the participation level with public hearings as part of the CDMRP. “This is the community’s process,” she said, created by and for the community.

It’s not the first time Perron has seen hearings cancelled due to low participation. She urges community members to make their voices heard while they have the chance to shape a law that will affect them.

“It’ll be too late by the time it gets enacted and it’s actually having its impacts on the community and people personally. That’s usually what we hear. We get a lot of feedback when something is actually enforced and impacting community members.”

A CDMRP satisfaction survey has recently been administered, but the results still need to be presented to the KLC. The survey’s findings will subsequently be posted online.

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door