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Membership law adjusted after Quebec court ruling

A recent CDMP meeting addressed the recent court ruling that deemed sections of the Membership Law discriminatory. Future discussions are forthcoming to redraft those sections. (file photo)

Parts of the Kahnawake Membership Law that were declared discriminatory will be redrafted in light of a Quebec Superior Court ruling.

“As leaders, we have responsibility because we’re going through this amendment process right now, we don’t want to put ourselves in this kind of predicament again,” membership portfolio chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer told the two dozen participants at Tuesday’s Community Decision-Making Process hearing for the amendments to the law.

Justice Thomas Davis declared in his 48-page ruling last month that the provisions that suspend or revoke a Kahnawa’kehró:non’s membership for marrying or commencing a common-law relationship with a non-Indigenous person is discriminatory, both on the basis of family status and civil status under the Canadian Charter.

MORE ON THIS STORY: “Mohawk Law” violates human rights

“We’re going to have to discuss about potential re-wording that captures the same sentiment but isn’t so blatantly explicit to say ‘if you marry out, you lose’ and that is something that’s going to be worked on,” said Sky-Deer.

“We still want to hold true the same kind of position, but we’ll just re-word it in a way where it doesn’t look as discriminatory.”

Tuesday marked the fourth meeting of the Second Hearing phase of the amendment process to the law, which will be renamed the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke Law when ratified.

Just over 15 community members and council chiefs participated, reaching consensus on amendments to sections of the Community Review Board, application process, adopted children, responsibilities of Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake, Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake Pledge Renunciation, regulations and transitory provisions.

They skipped the provisions dealing with suspensions and revocations until the next meeting on May 29 at Karonhianónhnha Tsi Ionterihwaienstáhkhwa due to re-drafting that Sky-Deer said a team of is currently working on.

The ruling also influenced a clause under the application process for people who are absent on the Kahnawake Kanien’kehá:ka Registry (KKR) as a result of marrying a non-Indigenous person prior to May 22, 1981.

Consensus was reached to delete a clause stating as long as “they are no longer married to a iah te-Onkwehón:we” based on a recommendation from council’s lawyers.

“They were married before the law came into effect. Let’s not forget, if they’re eligible to be recognized as a Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke, even if they’re married to a non-Onkwehón:we, they don’t lose their identity, you can’t revoke that,” said Sky-Deer.

“The moratorium served its purpose. We’re not overrun by non-Onkwehón:we people all over the community, but now we’ve changed the direction and the course of what this law is intended to do. Now, we’re recognizing people based on lineage and identity.”

The entire section is one of the most integral parts of the law, which lays out who is eligible to apply to be on the KKR. The entire section was rewritten and there are five categories applicants must fall under.

“Even children that are born of two Onkwehón:we parents will still have to apply. Everyone, we’re not just saying those who have a child with a non-Onkwehón:we person. We want everyone to apply. It helps us with record keeping at membership. So, we can see who’s in our community. A lot of time, parents don’t register their children, so we’re making it mandatory,” said Sky-Deer.

Who can apply?

If an applicant is born of two Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke parents, they also have to have at least four Kanien’kehá:ka great-grandparents.

If an applicant is born one Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke parent and a parent with Kanien’kehá:ka lineage, they also need to have at least four Onkwehón:we great-grandparents, and at least two being recognized as Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke. The same criteria applies for an applicant that has one Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke parent and one parent with Onkwehón:we lineage.

If an applicant has one Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke parent and non-Indigenous parent, they have to have at least four Onkwehón:we great-grandparents, with at least two being recognized as Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke, and also has to reach the age of majority and maintain family and community ties. The same criteria applies to an applicant that is born of two Onkwehón:we parents.

“If this whole law is about identifying who are Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke, you kind of want them to have some ties, some lineage that comes from here to be eligible for benefits and services. That directly came from the community,” said Sky-Deer.

The eligibly criteria would also apply to any child who is adopted by Kahnawa’kehró:non, and not everyone was happy about it.

“When you adopt somebody, you’re giving them everything that you have. You’re welcoming them into your home, and you’re making them one of your own even if they’re Onkwehón:we from somewhere else,” said council chief Martin Leborgne.

One of the final amendments that reached consensus on Friday was a clause to void any current applications for membership and non-member residency under the previous law.

Membership Department staff told The Eastern Door that would affect around 70 applications that were on hold as a result of the Council of Elders being suspended in 2007. Each applicant would have to apply under the new eligibility criteria when the law is ratified.

jessicad@easterndoor.com
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