(Antoine Delormier, 67, before heading out on protest. APTN/Photo)
APTN National News
A handful of Akwesasne residents on Saturday marched to the Canadian border post on the edge of their territory demanding the next federal government deliver a new deal between the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the community.
The small protest was sparked after Antoine Delormier, a 67 year-old Akwesasne man suffering from a heart condition, was manhandled last month by CBSA agents after he crossed through from his home on Cornwall Island on the way to the hospital. The Sept. 24 incident is currently under investigation and the family has contacted a lawyer.
Delormier spent a week in hospital partly as a result of the incident.
“It is sickening going through this every day,” said Delormier. “Those people over there (CBDA) need to have a little respect for the Native people that live here.”
Delormier drove through the border post Saturday as a group of about 15 demonstrators waved signs next to the customs post and urged other drivers to honk their horns. The CBSA agent in the booth did not ask for Delormier’s name or that of the APTN reporter in the truck as he stopped to check-in. The agent just waved the truck through.
The people who marched Saturday said they were upset about what happened to him.
“If this happens to an elder, who is going to be next, our kids?” said Pascale Delormier, who is sister-in-law to Antoine Delormier.
Akwesasne straddles the borders of Ontario, Quebec and New York State.
The protestors, with signs reading, “New CBSA deal now” and “CBSA brutalized Antoine Delormier,” want CBSA to create a lane-way specifically for residents of Cornwall Island, which is one of the districts in Akwesasne within the Canadian boundary.
Akwesasne residents who live on Cornwall Island, which sits in the St. Lawrence River, are forced to report at the Canadian border post any time they leave their homes to travel into Cornwall, Ont., and beyond.
“We have to make the government understands we need them to stop this abuse at customs,” said Kanento Boots.
The relationship between Akwesasne and CBSA has remained tense since 2009 when the agency abandoned its original post on the island after community residents protested plans to arm border guards.
CBSA moved its border post to Cornwall which put the island in a type of no-man’s land between the Canadian border post and the U.S. port of entry which sits on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River.
Of the three districts of Akwesasne in Ontario and Quebec, Cornwall Island is the only one accessible by road directly from Canada. The two other districts, St. Regis Village and Snye, can only be accessed by road through the U.S.
Canadian and U.S. authorities say Akwesasne’s location has made it a hub for smuggling.