Escalating tensions over an ongoing dispute between the Mohawk Nation, the United States and Canada has shut down the Canada-U.S. border crossing on an eastern Ontario reserve for the last week.
The issue flared up last Sunday The Canada Border Services Agency preemptively closed the Canada-U.S. Port of Cornwall crossing Sunday night after leaders from the the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation said they would not allow armed border agents to be placed on the border.
Canada began arming border guards in August 2007. Currently there are 917 armed officers at border posts across the country, with 4,800 expected to be posted by 2016.
Over the last week, the US joined Canada and abandoned their border checkpoints out of fear for their safety at Cornwall Island in the St. Lawrence River. The New York State Police and Cornwall City Police have closed down bridges between the two nations.
Concern over security for America’s northern border has increased since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Last November, a man was arrested attempting to smuggle US$85,000 into Canada from the United States.
Residents of neighboring Cornwall, 100 kilometers southwest of Montreal, have been hit by the border closing, with commuters being forced to add 90 minutes to their daily commute. Local businesses are also worried about losing revenue if the dispute lingers through the summer months.
Mohawk Beringians are also inconvenienced by the lock-down, as a portion of the Mohawk Nation sits on the border and many tribe members have family and other ties across the border in Canada. Many Mohawk Nation members travel across the border several times a day doing normal activities.
“Canada has always known that we were against putting guns in the hands of the border guards in the middle of our community,” said the Mohawk Nation in a press statement.
“Canada’s battleship diplomacy is intimidation with the threat of military deployment. They have put an embargo on us to starve us out and make us surrender. This approach will not lead to a lasting settlement. Canada wrongly thinks they can only use force and threats. After 500 years we’ve never violated who we are. They don’t want to sit down with us. They are afraid to see our full valid legal position that we never surrendered our sovereignty or identity on Great Turtle Island.”