(The eastern tip of Cornwall Island from St. Regis Village, Akwesasne. APTN/File)
APTN National News
The Canadian military’s counter-intelligence unit has been conducting surveillance of a Mohawk community straddling the Canada-U.S, according to “confidential” reports released to APTN National News.
The documents, a handful of counter-intelligence reports from 2012 to 2015, reveal that the Canadian Forces National Counter Intelligence Unit regularly mentioned Akwesasne—a Mohawk community straddling the Ontario-Quebec-New York State borders—as part of its “threat information collection.”
The heavily redacted reports, which are comprised of “raw data,” incorrectly describe Akwesasne as a “First Nation located on Cornwall Island.”
In reality, Cornwall Island, which sits in the St. Lawrence River across from Cornwall, Ont., is only part of Akwesasne. The Mohawk community is also comprised of St. Regis Village and Snye, two areas of the reserve that are located in Canada but only accessible by road through the U.S.
Another portion of the community, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, sits entirely in the U.S.
The documents were obtained by APTN under the Access to Information Act.
The uncensored portions of the reports provide no explanation as to why military intelligence monitors Akwesasne, which is already under heavy surveillance from the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, OPP and the Sûreté du Québec on the Canadian side.
US Homeland Security, along with US Border Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration also keep a tight watch on the American side of the community.
Akwesasne is mentioned under three separate subject headings in the military’s counter-intelligence Threat Information Collection (TIC) reports released to APTN.
A Sept. 26, 2014, report lists Akwesasne next to the heading, “Sabotage by Criminals/Terrorists.” The report noted that, “at this time the Akwesasne First Nation located on Cornwall Island are engaged in smuggling various contraband items (i.e. counterfeit cigarettes and weapons).”
Technically, cigarettes smuggled across the St. Lawrence River through Akwesasne are not “counterfeit,” but unlicensed. Akwesasne cigarette makers produce their own brands or sell unmarked cigarettes in plastic bags.
A portion of this section is redacted, but it also includes reference to a marsh fire along Hwy 401 in November 2013 that stopped CN train traffic for about two hours.
In another report from Feb. 6, 2015, Akwesasne is mentioned next to the heading, “Criminal Activities.” The rest of the section is redacted.
An Oct. 21, 2013, report lists Akwesasne next to the heading, “Theft by Criminals/Terrorists,” but all details explaining the connection are redacted.
The Canadian Forces considered Akwesasne as a source of a possible “terror threat” when it conducted a May 2012 threat assessment connected to a planned visit by three Canadian warships to the port in Cornwall.
“Synopsis: CFNCIU Det Kingston conducted a Threat Information Collection (TIC) for a port visit of HMCS Ville de Quebec, HMCS Moncton and HMCS Summerside to Cornwall, ON,” said the report. “In completing this task, all IR/PIRs were addressed with particular attention to the following: Terrorism: the port of Cornwall is directly across from the Akwesasne First Nation.”
This report was also shared by the Canadian military with the rest of the so-called Five Eyes: U.S., Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The Canadian military was expected to apologize in 2010 for the inclusion of the Mohawk Warrior Society in the military’s 2006 draft of its counterinsurgency manual. The apology has still not been issued.
The Canadian military has kept a wary eye on Mohawks since 1990, when soldiers faced-off against Mohawks, many from Akwesasne, during the Oka crisis in Kanesatake. Three months before the Oka crisis exploded, the Canadian military was involved in the lesser-known Operation Feather which targeted Akwesasne itself during a civil war there over casinos and sovereignty.
The Canadian military also drew up plans called Operation Campus and Operation Saxon-Scorpion targeting the Mohawk communities of Kanesatake, Kahnawake and Akwesasne in the 1990s. The plans were shelved over concerns such a move would trigger a nation-wide Indigenous uprising.