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Find solutions to First Nations border crossing challenges,
senators urge the government

Ottawa, June 22, 2016  - The federal government must appoint a special representative to find solutions to address border crossing challenges for First Nations communities that straddle Canada and the United States or that are close to the border, the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples said in a report released Wednesday.

The report, Border Crossing Issues and the Jay Treaty, outlines possible solutions to long-standing irritants many First Nations people face.

For many members of cross-border First Nations communities, travel into Canada or the U.S. is a daily occurrence. Their families may live on one side of the border; their jobs may be on the other. Parts of the Canadian side of the Akwesasne reserve, for instance, can only be accessed via the U.S. and people travelling from the U.S. into the Ontario part of the reserve must detour through Cornwall to check in with border agents.

The daily inconvenience of going through a border crossing is compounded by the perceived unwillingness of the Government of Canada to work with the Mohawk of Akwesasne to develop a secure ID card that would solve this problem. As Grand Chief Abram Benedict told the committee, “Canada has not been responsive to our attempts to find solutions; instead they seem to find reasons for them not to work.”

The Jay Treaty, signed in 1794 by representatives of the U.S. and British governments, guaranteed First Nations people permission to freely cross the border. While the committee heard the treaty has no practical application in Canada today, it provides a historical foundation for improved cross-border mobility.

Committee Chair Senator Lillian Eva Dyck said parliament must take measures to facilitate legitimate travel for day-to-day activities by First Nations people.

Quotes

“Our committee has heard time and again that First Nations people across this country face challenges that other Canadians do not. Border-crossing hassles need not be one of them. There are already a number of measures in place that expedite border crossing for frequent, low-risk travellers — there is every reason to believe a special representative could find a sensible and secure solution, particularly for the First Nations citizens of Akwesasne who already have a solution which could be adopted or adapted,”

- Senator Lillian Eva Dyck, Chair of the committee.

“I believe that a solution can be implemented that balances each country's security needs with a fundamental respect for the realities of life on cross-border reserves. Our committee heard compelling evidence from Akwesasne's representatives that I believe should be considered as Canada moves to resolve this issue,”

- Senator Dennis Patterson, Deputy Chair of the committee.

Quick Facts

  • The Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation — also known as the Jay Treaty — was signed in 1794 to resolve issues resulting from the U.S. battle for independence from Great Britain in 1776.
  • The Jay Treaty was abrogated by the War of 1812; it has never been implemented or sanctioned by legislation in Canada.
  • Parts of the Akwesasne First Nation community are located in Canada and parts are located in the United States of America.
  • There are other First Nations communities that straddle the Canada-USA border or that have had traditional trade routes which cross this border.

Associated Links


For more information or to book interviews please contact:

Marcy Galipeau
Committees Liaison Officer
Communications Directorate
Senate of Canada
613-944-4082
marcy.galipeau@sen.parl.gc.ca

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