Canada Gaming Regulator under fire for ‘Human Injustice’

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Mohawk Council of Kahnawake CanadaWhat does it mean to be part of a community? To be surrounded by the people you grew up with. People you share a common heritage and bloodline with. To the band council of the Mohawk Tribe of Kahnawake, Canada, it means a lot.

If the tribal name sounds familiar, there’s a good chance you’re one of the 10% of adult Canadians that, according to statistics, gambles online. The Kahnawake Tribe’s claim to fame is it’s longstanding regulation of internet casinos and poker rooms via the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

Upholding the Law, or Blatant Discrimination?

Family, tradition and heritage are integral parts of the band’s culture. Some might say, a little too much so. In modern times, we live in a global society where mixed cultures and inter-racial relationships are very common, and generally accepted by the majority of our fellow man. Apparently, the Kahnawake council doesn’t feel the same way.

Media reports surfaced this week that a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has been called to hear the oppressive stories of five tribe members who say they’re being discriminated against because they are involved in relationships with, or married to, non-tribal descendants. They believe the Mohawk’s antiquated membership code is in dire need of a modern update.

According to that code of membership, only aboriginal members of the tribe are permitted to live on the reservation. The bylaw, scripted in 1981, also prohibits any non-aboriginal from voting, owning property, receiving an education or government assistance, or being buried on tribal land.

Canada Human Rights Tribunal Called

The five members questioning that law filed a complaint with the Canadian Tribunal last year, following the reception of eviction notices from the Kahnawake council. While the complaint was effective in stopping the tribe from enforcing the decades-old bylaw, the complainants say their lives have become dysphoric.

Although they still live in Kahnawake, Canada, they say they’ve since been ostracized by their local government and community. One of the complainants, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid further discriminatory perceptions from neighbors, called the situation a “human injustice” against bi-racial couples.

“What I really want is my right to be a part of my own community, the place I’ve lived my whole life, the place I call home, the place my family is,” she told the media. “I want to be an integral part of shaping our future. I want to matter, I want my opinion to matter, I want other people like me to matter.”

She went on to describe what it means to her to be a member of the Mohawk Tribe of Kahnawake. “It’s a crazy and unique and complicated thing to be native,” she said, “but it’s not a band card, it’s not a band number that makes you native. It’s how you live, it’s your beliefs, it’s speaking the language and practicing traditions.”

No Real Solution In Sight

Unfortunately, the Canada Human Rights Tribunal won’t be able to do much for the complainants. While the federal government has authority to demand the tribe modernize its bylaws, Ottawa has made it clear they have no intentions of doing that.

The province has prevented the tribe from evicting those that don’t meet the code’s biological requirements. From there, though, Ottawa’s only role in the matter will be – if it sees fit – to impose pecuniary penalties against the Kahnawake council for violating human rights.

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