Akwesasne Court: Court Without Borders

CIA #3 101 Tewesateni Road

Akwesasne, Ontario  K6H-0G5

1(613) 575-2250 ext. 1025 or 1026

The Akwesasne Court is the first court in Canada which operates under an independent Indigneous legal system, separate from the federal framework. It represents an important milestone toward full self-determination for Mohawks and Indigenous Peoples all across Canada.

Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, article 34

Before colonization by the English and French Crowns, the Mohawks of Akwesasne had a complex governance system which included rich traditions of conflict resolution and community peace-keeping. The Akwesasne Court is a move toward revitalizing these traditional customs.

The community that exists today is uncomfortably located between three different legal jurisdictions, including two provincial systems with conflicting principles and an international border. A community-based justice system has existed in Akwesasne since the 1970s, and in 2000, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne began the formal process of asserting their inherent rights to establish an formal and independent legal system that would replace the three competing jurisdictions within the territory. The Akwesasne Court Law Number 2016-01 was passed under Mohawk Council Resolution 2015-2016- #322 on February 12th, 2016, and entered into force in August of the same year.

At present, the Akwesasne Court has limited criminal jurisdiction, but it is recognized by the federal government in the Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act as empowered to enforce Akwesasne law. A mechanism for the recognition of Akwesasne Court orders in Ontario and Quebec is currently being negotiated.

The justices appointed to the Court are selected by an independent review commission for their good character, credibility and reputation in their community. They then receive ten weeks of extensive training from the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice on criminal court and civil procedures, ethics, due process and judicial fairness before they are sworn in. 

The Court proceedings themselves are framed by Mohawk values and principles in the administration of justice. The judges, prosecutors, and advocates prioritize the healing of the community and all involved parties when considering how to remedy an offence. Rather than using punishment and penalties as a tool of justice, the Court seeks to guide the offender to use their gifts and talents to heal the harms they have caused and by this path return balance to their community.

In this way, the Akwesasne Court upholds the contemporary requirements for judicial forums in Canada while centering the language, culture and values of traditional Mohawk legal frameworks: the principles of Sken:nen (peace), Kasatstensera (strength); and Kanikonri:io (a good mind), and values of Respect for life, Respect for the person/being; and Respect for property.

Services offered:

  • Adjudication of Akwesasne Laws 
  • Traffic Offenses 
  • Acceptance of traffic payments
  • Skennen Orders (Peace Bonds) 
  • Small Claims 
  • Appeals  
  • Appeals for Administrative Tribunals 
  • Court Mediation Services (Policy) 
  • Commissioner of Oaths (ON)
  • Notary Public (NYS) 
  • Community Service (in lieu of fine) 
  • Early Resolution 
  • Prosecutorial Services 
  • Defense Counsel Services

The community is encouraged to take the time to read our Court Law and to become familiar with the contents of our own Court Law.