Cornwall Island open to border post return

The chief of Cornwall Island, an Akwesasne Mohawk reserve in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, says economic times are tough since a 2009 dispute over armed border guards led to the departure of a border post and toll booths.

Akwesasne Mohawk reserve struggling since 2009 move of Canada-U.S. border post

RAW The invisible border

10 years ago
Duration 2:54
The CBC's Evan Dyer drives across Akwesasne's U.S.-Canada border, which on the mainland has no border crossing.

Residents of Cornwall Island welcome the return of Canadian border guards in order to boost the economy, according to its Mohawk chief.

Cornwall Island is a reserve in the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory that lies in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. 

It is officially part of Ontario but also straddles New York and Quebec. Residents of the Akwesasne reserve can even travel between Hogansburg, N.Y., and St. Regis, Que., — as you can watch in the video link above.

Since 2009, residents on the island have been secluded after the Canada Border Services Agency pulled its port of entry due to a dispute over the arming of border guards.

The government began phasing in the armed-guard policy in 2007 and planned to arm about 4,800 border officers by 2016.

Some Mohawk residents protested at the port of entry and customs officers walked off the job. At the time, it was a victory in the eyes of many on the island.

Cost to enter Cornwall Island

But now both the border post and toll booths are located on Canadian mainland, which means it costs $6.50 and a trip through Canada Customs and Immigration just to visit the island.

"We're literally living in no-man's land," said Cornwall Island Chief Brian David.

David said the new arrangement was supposed to be temporary, but now residents feel cut off from Canada.

"Just to conduct normal business here has turned out of be ... a challenge," he added. "We have to cross two customs if we want to shop. We have to cross two customs if we want to go to the hospital."

Businesses closing

Business has also taken a hit on the island, according to local gift shop owner Lucy Roundpoint.

The hassle is keeping potential customers away. She said three of five businesses have closed at the mini-mall where she operates.

"I've laid off two people. It's just been an economic hardship on everyone here on the island," she said.

The chief said the federal government would still have to make some concessions if the guards were to return to the island.