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Residency and membership laws ready to go

Melanie Gilbert is ready to take on the workload as the regulations related to the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke Law comes into effect. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake accepted regulations regarding the KKR law Monday, in addition to enacting the recently read residency law.

Regulations related to the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke Law include those respecting hearings, applications for recognition, the community review board, and the custom code.

The Mohawk Council also announced Melanie Gilbert’s formal appointment as registrar for the KKR and residency laws.

Gilbert started the post last week, but has been involved with membership as a community member for around 25 years, she said. 

“I’m just getting re-familiarized with all the information that was shared during all those hearings for the CDMP process,” said Gilbert.

Her basic duties will include receiving applications for those wanting to be approved on the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke Registry, and for those wanting permits for the recently read Kahnawà:ke Residency Law.

The council table enacted the Residency Law Monday after its formal reading last Thursday evening (June 13).

The law includes three categories of residents: Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke, approved Kahnawà:ke residents and permit holders.

“Anyone not falling under one of these will be considered illegally residing on the territory,” a news release read Monday from the MCK.

The table will now work to create regulations to administer and enforce the law.

“Now we officially have legislation that governs who can reside in the community,” said council chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer who is on both portfolios. 

In the previous 2003 Membership Law, both residency and membership were part of the law. 

“People who were angry about who’s living in the community would always say, ‘membership,’” said Sky-Deer. “They’re not mad about who’s being recognized as a Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke. They’re mad about who’s living in the territory, and who doesn’t have a right.”

The two laws are linked, but not the same.

“If you’re not interested in becoming a member, but you qualify under the approved Kahnawake resident, then that would be an option for a person to apply,” said Gilbert, of the residency law.

The former director of MCK’s Lands Unit knows the job will come with a new load of challenges.

“The sheer volume of applications, probably,” said Gilbert. 

“With all the different laws that have come down from Canada and federal laws that are applying and people that are being registered at the federal level, who might assume that they are automatically registered at the local level, and that’s not the case. There is still a vetting process and a review process that has to take place with each of the applications.”

Since the council of elders was suspended in 2007, Gilbert said there are people who have waited to apply for membership. The registrar knows who these people are, and they will be contacted with new application forms.

“There’s definitely people waiting,” she said. “The applications that they put in since 2007 are null and void, and they’re going to be getting a new set of applications that are going to be sent right to them under the new law.”

Gilbert is ready to dive into the new position.

“I’m very excited,” said Gilbert. “It’s an interesting position. I think it’s going to be a really big change from lands, for sure, but they are definitely connected. I’m looking at it as a whole different way of looking at things and a whole different world for sure.”

Full versions of both laws are available at kahanwakemakingdecisions.com.

“With all of the engagement that we went through with Bill S-3 (An Act to amend the Indian Act), I think people are welcoming that we will finally have legislation that governs who can reside here,” said Sky-Deer. 

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