Mohawk woman, non-native boyfriend driven from Kahnawake home by protesters

Tensions remained high on a Quebec reserve after a mixed-race couple and an 11-year-old boy were driven out of their home by protesters a day earlier.

Criminal record of man is reason for protest on Mohawk territory, says Grand Chief Mike Delisle

Non-native boyfriend driven from home by protesters

7 years ago
Duration 2:36
Kahnawake's chief says the way a white man was removed from the Mohawk reserve south of Montreal was wrong

Tensions remained high Monday on a Quebec reserve after a mixed-race couple and an 11-year-old boy were driven out of their home by protesters a day earlier. 

There are conflicting views as to why some residents of the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal wanted Amanda Deer and her non-native boyfriend to leave. 

A group of people gathered outside Deer's home Sunday and demanded the family leave.

She said she's not sure whether it's because her boyfriend has a criminal record, or because they were trying to enforce a territory law that says any Mohawk who marries or lives with a non-native must move away.

Michael Delisle, grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, a reserve south of Montreal, said the moratorium on mixed marriages was put in place in 1981 as a result of on-reserve tensions in the 1970s. (CBC)

"Two people in the pro-eviction [group], they were trying to break my front door down. They started handling the handle, banging on the door, banging on the porch," Deer said.

"People were on the side of my porch in the back where the pool is. I had the back door gate locked by the pool, they're trying to kick it in. 'Get the f--k out of here, get the hell out of here. We want him out!' And the police are standing there doing nothing."

Deer said she and her family decided to temporarily leave their home, fearing for their safety.

Protesters also told CBC News and Radio-Canada reporters to leave Kahnawake on Sunday.

Boyfriend accused of violence

Many of the protesters at her house have attended prior protests over membership issues in Kahnawake. But Deer's neighbour, Michael Jacobs, said that wasn't the issue. 

He said protesters were upset because the boyfriend has spent time behind bars and was released back into the community on Friday.
Michael Jacobs says he's afraid of his neighbour's boyfriend, a non-native living on the Mohawk reserve with Amanda Deer. (CBC)

"The guy's a violent felon and we took it very seriously," Jacobs said. "I haven't slept for four days."

Grand Chief Mike Delisle said he doesn't believe the protesters were targeting Deer because of her non-native boyfriend, but rather because of her boyfriend's reputation and because a court ordered the boyfriend to remain in Kahnawake as a condition of his release from jail. 

"Case workers, court workers, or what have you, should realize and understand that putting a condition on a non-native individual to reside in the territory isn't going to work," Delisle said.

Still, Delisle said the tactics used by protesters in this case may have gone too far.

"We're not looking for vigilantism," he said.

​Eviction policy

The controversy surrounding Kahnawake's "marry out, stay out" policy has spurred much consternation among Mohawks living on the land just south of Montreal.

Earlier in May, people in Kahnawake protested in front of the home of another mixed couple - a Mohawk and non-native. (CBC)

The policy has been in place since 1981, but has not been widely enforced.

The rule means Mohawks who marry non-natives have to leave the community of about 8,000 residents. Over the years, some have left by their own accord, but others have chosen to stay despite Kahnawake's membership law.

 In 2010, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake voted to evict 26 non-natives.

The controversy then began anew last year, when some people living in Kahnawake said they were being intimidated by pro-eviction protesters. 

Many families since then have been targeted by people insisting they vacate the premises, including Marvin and Terry McComber, Cheryl Diabo and Waneek Horn-Miller.

Some of them are in the process of suing the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake over the eviction policy.

Feds condemn law as 'racist'

The office of Bernard Valcourt, minister of aboriginal affairs, had strong words for the Kahnawake policy, calling it "racist and unacceptable."

"We urge community leaders to enact a more inclusive membership and residency approach, one that is in line with the spirit of Canadians' values of equality and freedom," the statement said.

Geoffrey Kelley, the Quebec minister responsible for native affairs, said last week he is concerned for the safety of the mixed Mohawk and non-native families.