Akwesasne border reporting back in court

In this Nov. 23, 2013 photo, snow flurries start falling at the Canada Border Services Agency port of entry on Cornwall Island. The site closed in May, 2009 after tensions escalated over the arming of CBSA agents. The Akwesasne Mohawks are representing two women charged with failing to report at the new customs in Cornwall. (Cornwall Newswatch/File)

AKWESASNE – A court case will resume next week on the requirement for Akwesasne residents to report to the Cornwall port of entry, says the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.

The MCA says the case involving two Akwesasne women charged with failing to report to the Canada Border Services Agency in Cornwall is being considered “a criminal test case.”

The case is scheduled to be heard over 15 days in December and will be shifting around to courtrooms in Cornwall, Morrisburg and Alexandria, due to limited court space.

Given the geographic uniqueness of Akwesasne, people on Cornwall Island in Ontario have to travel through New York State in order to access Snye or St. Regis in the Quebec portion of Akwesasne.

Since the Canada Border Services Agency moved off the island in May, 2009, Akwesasne residents travelling from or through New York State to Cornwall Island have been required to come to the Cornwall port of entry to report before going back to the island.

The MCA says it’s offered alternative reporting methods, such as reporting by phone which is done at remote Canada-U.S. border crossings, but the CBSA has not acknowledged their proposals.

During the time when the port of entry was at the foot of the north channel bridge in Cornwall, the reporting requirement led to long lineups and long delays at the border crossing.

Hundreds of residents’ vehicles were seized and they were fined under the reporting requirement, leading to increased tension between the reserve and the border agency.

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