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Consultation on residency law begins today

Upcoming consultations will set the groundwork for Residency Law CDMP hearing, which should begin next year. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)

Who calls Kahnawake home?

It’s a question at the heart of a survey that begins the consultation on the proposed residency law, which will soon be entering the Community Decision-Making Process (CDMP).

Between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. today at the Kahnawake Services Complex, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chief Rhonda Kirby will be among those conducting a survey to gauge community feelings on residency.

Three letters have thus been submitted on the possibility of having a residency law, including one from Kirby.

“Part of it was to really know who actually lives here,” she told The Eastern Door this week. “There have been a couple of things that have happened in the community, and I think it’s really important that we know who is here. Whether they’re from another community, or wouldn’t meet our criteria either.”

Council grand chief Joe Norton said in an Eastern Door interview a year into his term this July, “the basis of our existence is one of the main issues, and that’s ‘who’s who?’ Who can live here? If you don’t get past that, you’re going to get bogged down in all kinds of areas.”

He supports the survey, but feels the results will be much like those regarding membership.

“You can consult as much as you want with the community to get a sense of where things are at, but I do believe it’s going to come down to the same thing again: this is what the community thinks. This is what they want. This is how it’s going to be, and those are your marching orders,” he told The Eastern Door.

“You can tweak certain things, but other things are very clear about where the people are, and that’s what we have to follow.”

Norton feels sentiments regarding residency are much what they were in the 1980s when the original moratorium on mixed marriages was instituted.

“It’s almost the same thing, it’s only that it’s a little more complicated now than it was back then,” he said.

“The number of people that are involved has grown over time and the pressures that are being brought to bear for people who want to reside in Kahnawake, who make the decisions to say, ‘go ahead and defy the law.’ As much as possible, you try and keep those numbers down to a minimum.”

Residency has been taken out of the Kahnawake Membership Law after it was felt there needed to be a distinction between the two.

The Canadian government’s recent response to the Descheneaux ruling, and the senate’s tabling of a bill to alter the Indian Act, have caused concern about the community’s band list numbers rising.

“They could be making more, so we want to have a good idea of who is here,” said Kirby. “Right now we have over 4,000 people who have been added to Kahnawake’s band list under the number of 070. They would be eligible to come here and buy land.”

According to the membership office, there are 6,614 people on the KKR and 10,970 on the federal list.

The acquisition of land is an issue Kirby came back to more than once.

“The proportion of common land is a lot smaller than the private land,” she said. “For community members, we’re really limited. We have enough for quite a few years, but in the big scheme of things, there is not necessarily enough.”

Surveys will include an information sheet on membership and residency.

In addition, it will bring up non-member residency for those Onkwehón:we who live here but are not Kanienkehá:ka of Kahnawake.

“There are other First Nations people who live here in the community, and some have been here for a very long time, and younger people might think they’re from here,” said Kirby.

“I think it’s important that we’re able to identify everybody in the community. They would have to apply for a non-member residency, and even with that you’d still have to prove your lineage, what community you’re from.”

Today will not be the only day for the survey. Kirby said council staff is planning on going to organizations and businesses throughout the community that may not be able stop by the Services Complex.

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