Akwesasne Community Asked to Anticipate Bridge Closure DevelopmentsOhiarihko:wa/July 3, 2009
AKWESASNE — This morning, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne expressed its appreciation to local residents for their continued patience and support and stated that there are ongoing efforts to resolve the bridge closure in a timely manner. The Mohawk Council understands that Canada Border Services Agency’s decision to close the Seaway International Bridge Crossing one month ago has placed unnecessary hardships on community members.
During the past month, MCA has been working hard to address local concerns and re-open the bridge crossing, but in a manner that is respectful of our community’s opposition to the arming of CBSA Officers on the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory. Throughout this time, the Mohawk Council and the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Commission firmly believe that it is important to keep community members and supporters informed of developments related to these efforts, including actions that entail the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Services.
On Tuesday, June 30th, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne met with surrounding law enforcement agencies in an ongoing effort to re-open the Seaway International Bridge Crossing to all traffic. The Chief of Police for the City of Cornwall, the Acting and Deputy Commissioner for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a representative from the Ontario Provincial Police attended the meeting. A meeting with the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Commission to discuss the involvement of the Mohawk Police followed this.
When Customs Officers abandoned their post at the Kawehnoke Port of Entry on the eve of the June 1st arming deadline, CBSA policy was immediately activated that resulted in both spans of the bridge crossing to be closed. The policy was implemented and enforced by the City of Cornwall Police at the North Span, while U.S. Customs enforced it for the South Span. As a result, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Services initiated negotiations with Cornwall Police to allow local residents to use the North Span.
The stationing of Mohawk Police Officers was a result of the negotiated arrangement and has placed an increased cost onto the police department, as well as raised some concern over their continued presence at the base of the North Span. It is understood that the bridge closure requires a political resolution that needs to be reached between Akwesasne leadership and federal officials, not with local law enforcement agencies. As a result, the Akwesasne Mohawk Police are looking at removing themselves from the base of the North Span in the near future.
The Akwesasne Mohawk Police have maintained a presence at the foot of the North Span of the Seaway International Bridge to ensure the safety and well being of the Akwesasne community. The MCA and Police Commission feel that the Mohawk Police’s presence has promoted and ensured that Akwesasne continues to be a safe and peaceful community, despite the disruption that CBSA has caused. They feel that the Akwesasne Mohawk Police have met their mandate at the base of the North Span and requested that at the appropriate time that they return to routine policing duties within Akwesasne.
To date, the Mohawk Police Officers have been the only officers interacting with the traveling public and Akwesasne community members. If the Akwesasne Mohawk Police are removed from the North Span it will have some affect to the community of Akwesasne. This may result in several likely scenarios that the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Mohawk Police Commission want to notify the community about and to prepare for.
Some potential scenarios are:
1—The Royal Canadian Mounted Police may potentially be stationed at the bridge full-time. If this happens, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne will continue negotiations with the RCMP to allow community members to cross, which may require Akwesasne community members to show proof of residency. This may cause delays to accessing the bridge to Cornwall Island.
2—The Ministry of Transportation may potentially order the complete closure of the North Span to all traffic.
3—There may be another potential scenario that will continue to impact the ability of local traffic to use the bridge.
Akwesasne leaders continue to ask community members to remain patient with the current situation at hand.