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Tribal government officials waiting to see if Cornwall Island protest occurs

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MASSENA — Mohawk authorities on the Canadian side of the reservation have warned tribal members about the potential for an unsanctioned protest on Cornwall Island today that could interrupt traffic on the Seaway International Bridge.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne issued a press release stating it was aware of plans by tribal member Stacey Boots to claim ownership of the closed Canadian border station on the island today.

“At this time, MCA’s Emergency Measures Program is preparing for this event with public safety as its first priority. Therefore, the community should prepare for a possible disruption to traffic and/or a possible bridge closure through Kawehno:ke,” the release stated, referring to the Mohawk name for Cornwall Island.

“In an effort to receive information that can be passed on to the community, MCA scheduled a meeting with Mr. Boots, which he later canceled,” the release stated.

Efforts to reach Mr. Boots were unsuccessful.

Council spokeswoman Shannon Scully Burns said the council had not heard from Mr. Boots and had no further information Friday afternoon.

Canada’s Federal Bridge Corp. has a policy to shut down bridge traffic if there is the possibility of danger to travelers.

“Individuals who illegally enter the building will be subject to criminal charges. In addition, the building has been deemed unsafe and unsanitary due to lack of plumbing and asbestos contamination,” the Mohawk release stated.

The St. Regis Mohawk Emergency Planning Department was notified of the possible action and said it does not plan to partake in “any demonstration that may prohibit our people from crossing the bridge to travel within our territory.”

St. Regis Mohawk tribal Communications Director Allyson Doctor said that despite the uncertainty of what would transpire today, the tribal council’s priorities remain the same.

“We do understand that any threat to occupy the former CBSA building is likely going to result in closure,” she said. “Our main priority is to ensure the safety of our people.”

When the Canada Border Services Agency decided to arm officers in 2009, Mohawk protests caused the agency to close the bridge for six weeks. The customs and toll booths were then temporarily moved to mainland Cornwall, Ontario, where they have remained since.

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