Environmental legislation requests seek to pick up where obsolete law leaves off, Montour says

A pair of requests for environmental protection laws on the territory are a way for Kahnawake to assert its own priorities in terms of protecting local wetlands and wildlife, a Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chief said.

“What was previously on the books was just not doing the job,” in terms of allowing Kahnawake to protect its own flora and fauna, MCK lead chief on the environment Ross Montour said. “We were running into problems with the Quebec Environment Ministry, such as when we had Hydro-Quebec come in and move some hydro towers. So, we needed to have something on the books that will allow us to better protect our community in line with our beliefs.”

The legislative requests were filed late last month with the Kahnawake Legislative Commission.

The two requests for public consultation were for a Kahnawake Environmental Protection law, as well as a law protecting the Saint Lawrence River, formally called the Kahnawake Saint Lawrence River law.

“It’s no longer really adequate and so we asked ourselves, ‘how do we protect the environment in the community and the wetlands in the community,’ and we came up with these,” he said. “Our wetlands and our wildlife require protection for the next seven generations. We’d like to better protect against climate change and we’d like to protect biodiversity better. We need to fill the void.”

The proposed Saint Lawrence River law will seek to assert Kahnawake’s jurisdiction over the river – Montour admitted it’s an ambitious plan – and would seek to protect an endangered species of fish that live only in one part of the river.

“The Copper Redhorse is a fish that lives in only one part of the river and it’s in danger,” he said. “It doesn’t live anywhere else in the world. Obviously, we are asserting jurisdiction over non-Native land, technically, but we see it as our responsibility to protect the river and to really find out what the impact of the development up and down the river has actually been.”

Montour said because the community sees itself as stewards of the river, it is their responsibility to help protect it.

“It’s our responsibility as a people,” he said.

The two laws have been added to the KLC’s waiting list for consultation as the current legislative agenda is full.

Montour said there is no rush for adoption of the proposed laws, which must go through the consultation and Community Decision Making Process (CDMP).

“There is no timeline,” he said. “But we are looking forward to getting it on the agenda.”

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase