Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 42st Parliament, Volume 150, Issue 55
  Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Speech on the Third Report of the Aboriginal Peoples Committee (Border Crossing Issues and the Jay Treaty)

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I move:

That the third report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, tabled on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 12-24(1), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.

She said: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has just tabled its report on border crossing and the Jay Treaty. I would like to make a few comments with regard to that.

First, I would like to acknowledge that this is the first in our special issues series. As a special issue we took on the issue of the Jay Treaty, and I would like to credit my colleague Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, whose idea it was that we study this issue.

I would also like to thank all the members of the committee, especially our deputy chair, Senator Patterson, and Senator Tannas, who is a member of the steering committee.

In addition, I would like to thank the clerk of the committee and the analysts, who were able to bring in all the witnesses necessary for the study to be conducted.

I would also like to mention Senate Communications who helped draft the press release that has already gone out and has summarized it so the Canadian public can know what our committee is doing. They also drew up a nice little map so people could see an example of one of the communities that is directly affected by what is contained in this report.

For honourable senators to understand what the report is about, it addresses the Jay Treaty, signed in 1794 between the U.S. and Great Britain, which allowed Indians in what is now North America to freely cross the border between the U.S. and what was then Upper Canada and Lower Canada. All Indians, whether they were considered American or British, I guess, back in those days, could freely pass the border with no problems. They could bring trade goods across. That belief has continued to permeate throughout Canada. Canadian First Nations people consider that they still have the right to freely pass the border between the U.S. and Canada, and also to trade.

The Akwesasne First Nation Reserve is a uniquely situated reserve. There are approximately 13,000 people, and their people live in Ontario, Quebec, and the U.S.A. The U.S.-Canada border cuts right through them, which creates unique border crossing situations for them. Some of their people live in the southern part of the U.S.A. Those who live in the eastern part, in Quebec, have to go through the U.S. to get to the Ontario part of their reserve, where some of their relatives live.

For example, if you live in the Quebec side and you want to visit your relative who lives in Ontario, you would have to go through the U.S., into Ontario, in order to do that. Then what would happen is they would then have to check in with the border security people in Cornwall, Ontario, which requires them to go out of their way to check in at the border, get screened, go through and then go where they want. When they want to go home they have to do the same thing. They have to go back to the border and report that they are going through the U.S. again to get back to Quebec.

In addition, it affects the daily commute for people, for instance, who live in the U.S. side of Akwesasne and, for example, a mother dropping her children off to school from the U.S. has to report to the Cornwall border before she can drop her children off to the Ontario side of their community where the school is located. Before she goes home, she also has to go back to the Cornwall border security before she can go back home. If she doesn't, she will be charged with not following the correct rules. In fact, several women have been charged for not following the correct procedure.

This is a serious inconvenience. The people of Akwesasne had the solution. They asked for a secure identity card so that it will facilitate them going back and forth. They already have a prototype that is similar to what is called the WHTI card. Senator Moore knows the WHTI card very well the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative card. It is secure and can't be tampered with. The card identifies the different members of that one community spanning the U.S. and two provinces so that border security knows they are actually legitimate members of that community. It would facilitate them getting through the border security crossing much more quickly.

They have proposed the solution to the Canada Border Services Agency numerous times. They have invited Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to jump on board and have met with resistance and lack of interest.

Our committee has looked at this situation. We have said that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada should appoint a special representative by the end of this year to work with all the affected parties and come up with a resolution by the end of next year.

Now this should be easily doable for the people in Akwesasne because they already have the solution. They have already tried to engage Canadian Border Services Agency. They have already tried to engage the CBSA and INAC. They already have the card that would allow them to do what they want to do, which is travel freely just within their own community, their own nation.

Honourable senators, that is the intent of the report. We have identified the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada as the person responsible for this and expect her to report back to us by the end of next year.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure honourable senators to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.