Cornwall Island (Ontario)

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For other uses, see Cornwall (disambiguation).
Aboriginals making lacrosse sticks, Cornwall Island, ON, about 1910

Cornwall Island is an island in the Saint Lawrence River, directly south of the city of Cornwall. The island is located completely in Canada, but is also part of the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve that straddles the Canada–United States border as well as the Quebec – Ontario border. The Seaway International Bridge provides road access from both the United States and Canada.

Border dispute[edit]

Border closure[edit]

On May 1, 2009, the Government of Canada announced that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will be permitted firearms at all border crossings along the Canada – United States border starting June 1.[1] Starting that day Border Services Officers (BSO) will be permitted to carry 9mm handguns at all border crossings.[2] Mohawk leaders immediately announced their opposition to the policy, stating that they want an exception made in the policy for the Cornwall border crossing because it is located on Mohawk land, and launched protests against the policy the same day it was announced.[3] The Akwesasne Mohawks further stated that they were opposed to border guards being armed at the Cornwall border post because it is situated in a residential area at a major crossroad where a bus stop, recreational fields, a play area, and several small businesses are located. All of these places would be in harm's way if BSO's are to carry firearms.[4]

At midnight on May 30, all border guards at the Cornwall border post left the post citing safety concerns after hundreds of Mohawks Hundreds had surrounded the post to protest the policy.[2] The border was later completely closed. The Mohawk protesters state that allowing the border guards to carry firearms violates their sovereignty and increases the likelihood of violent confrontations.[5] Ron Moran, the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, stated that the border was too risky to allow officers to return and that officers were intimidated by some people in Akwesasne who were wearing scarves on their faces.[6]

Temporary border opened[edit]

On June 2, 2009, Akwesasne Mohawks were allowed to cross the Seaway International Bridge, though the Canada border post remained closed.[7] The border remained closed until July 13, when a temporary border post was opened at the north end of the Seaway International Bridge.[8] Bob Kilger, the mayor of Cornwall, praised the opening of the temporary border post and hopes for a more permanent resolution of the dispute. The CBSA stated that the border crossing will only reopen if the officers can work there "safely with all of the tools they need to do their job, including their duty firearm."[9]

On June 17, the federal government said it will not reverse its decision to arm border guards. Instead, it is considering moving the border crossing on Cornwall Island closer to the city of Cornwall on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.[2] On the same day, a number of Cornwall businesses came to Parliament Hill to ask the federal government to re-open the Cornwall Island border crossing. Closing the border crossing has caused businesses that rely on cross-border traffic to lose revenue.[10]

On September 18, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne accused the CBSA of seizing vehicles belonging to Mohawk residents who do not report to the new border post and required $1,000 to recover them.[11] However, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Customs Act states that all travellers entering Canada from the United States are required to report directly to the CBSA temporary border crossing.[12]

On September 19, around 12:30 pm ET, Cornwall police were called to the Seaway International Bridge. They shut down access to the bridge for the next five hours and diverted traffic away from the bridge.[11] The closure was due to the Akwesasne Mohawks protesting the fines issued to members of the Mohawk community who did not report to the temporary border crossing.[13]

Current status[edit]

As of 2014, patronage of establishments on Cornwall Island by US residents continues to be sharply curtailed by the requirement that US residents proceed directly to the Canadian customs office north of the river: "A shopping centre on Cornwall Island in the Canadian bit of Akwesasne, a piece of land set aside for the Mohawk people, shows how changing regimes harm small businesses. When the Mohawks objected to the arming of Canadian guards, Canada moved a customs post north to the mainland. This left the mall in no-man’s-land. Travellers from the United States are now told not to stop until they reach Canadian customs. The change has cost the mall’s sports store C$50,000 a year and has made some units unrentable."[14]


  1. ^ "First Nation against armed border guards". 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  2. ^ a b c "Cornwall border post could be moved off Mohawk land". 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  3. ^ "Akwesasne Mohawks protest border gun plan". CTV. 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  4. ^ "Akwesasne Mohawk Leaders Issue Joint Statement Against Arming Canada Customs Offices". 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  5. ^ "Border authorities shut down Akwesasne crossing". 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  6. ^ "Police call off blockade of Mohawks at Cornwall". 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  7. ^ "Police call off blockade of Mohawks at Cornwall". 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  8. ^ "Ontario border bridge reopens after 5-hour closure". 2009-09-19. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  9. ^ "Temporary Cornwall border post opens". 2009-09-19. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  10. ^ "Cornwall businesses demand action on border dispute". 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  11. ^ a b "Ontario border bridge closed for 5 hours". 2009-09-19. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  12. ^ "Temporary port of entry in the City of Cornwall: Information for travellers". Canada Border Services Agency. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  13. ^ "Native protest closes bridge to Cornwall border-crossing". 2009-09-19. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  14. ^ harmed US patronage

Coordinates: 45°00′20″N 74°42′59″W / 45.00556°N 74.71639°W / 45.00556; -74.71639