Historically speaking, relations between the Kahnawake and the Canadian government have been tense to the point of armed confrontations over territorial disputes and autonomy. Now the Canadian Ministry of Justice is considering various measures it could pursue to shut down online gaming sites operating from the Mohawks territory. Canada has long considered the Kahnawake gambling operations occurring on Canadian soil to be illegal but has yet to go beyond formal complaining.
According to the National Post, a leading Canadian daily, the government is now considering reinforcing existing Criminal Code provisions that would instate UIGEA type controls (the likes of which were just rejected by the French Commission to the delight of European poker players). These controls would restrict the flow of money to and from “illegal” internet operators.
"Following recent concerns surrounding internet gambling in Canada, the Minister of Justice has asked his officials to examine whether the enforcement of the Criminal Code provisions could be assisted with other measures," a spokesperson for the Minister of Justice told the Post.
The Mohawks of Kahnawake have indignantly refuted the Federal government’s assertions that their activities are illegal. They are sticking by the claim that gambling is an inherent part of their culture and is therefore protected under a clause in the Canadian constitution which seeks to protect all aspects of native culture.
There is also a possibility that the Mohawks could claim protection under Article 20 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 20 states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.”
It goes on to say that, “Indigenous peoples deprived of their means of subsistence and development are entitled to just and fair redress.”
What will cause the greatest conflict between the two parties is the Mohawks refusal to recognize the jurisdiction of the Canadian Federal government over them. As a means of reaching a mutual decision, there is a prospect of introducing a system whereby the Kahnawake Gaming Commission must make some kind of official financial contribution to the state in exchange for the peaceful continuation of their online gaming market.
Chuck Barnett, a member of the board of supervisors for Mohawk Internet Technologies, has suggested that the Canadians should consider creating legislation that “could serve as the catalyst for a potential source of economic development, employment and revenue through taxation."
It will come as no surprise to anybody who follows news in the gambling industry that Ottawa has come under increasing pressure from the horse racing industry to up the pressure on the online gambling activities of the Mohawks. The industry has complained that it pays a full CAD$1 billion in tax receipts to the government every year while the online gaming operators in Kahnawake don’t pay a dime.
Even still, the Canadian government hopes to avoid a full out confrontation with the Mohawks over this issue as the tribal members are willing to defend their rights with their lives. Hopefully a mutual agreement will be reached instead of a forced crackdown against the members of the Kahnawake territory.