The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) has announced its intention to enter the online gambling business via a partnership with online gambling site Sports Interaction (SI).
Last week, the MCK announced an agreement in principle to “enter into the business of e-gaming” via a partnership with SI, which has operated under a Kahnawà:ke Gaming Commission (KGC) license since 1999. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the MCK said the pact was the result of “many months of negotiations.”
MCK Grand Chief Michael Delisle Jr. said both chief and council had “deliberated long and hard on this matter” before council voted 9-3 in favor of the partnership. Delisle said the MCK had “conducted lengthy and comprehensive research” that ultimately concluded the deal offered the “unprecedented opportunity to partner with a successful company that has been a good corporate citizen in Kahnawà:ke.”
The MCK’s announcement comes just as Canada is wrestling with the devastating final report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC was formed in 2008 to investigate the country’s former residential schools system, which the report castigates as “nothing short of cultural genocide.”
The system involved shipping Aboriginal children five years and older from homes in the north to residential schools in the south. The schools operated from 1840 to 1969 and eventually involved over 150k individuals. In most cases, Christian churches ran the schools on behalf of the government.
Long notorious for its stories of physical and sexual abuse, the school system is officially blamed for the deaths of at least 3,200 aboriginal children. Justice Marty Sinclair, who heads the TRC panel, says the actual number of deaths could be twice that, between 5% and 7% of the total.
Around 3,600 survivors contributed to the TRC report, one of whom recalled that “discipline was harsh and unregulated; abuse was rife and unreported. It was, at best, institutionalized child neglect.” In addition, many of the 80 or so schools were overcrowded and not built to withstand Canadian prairie winters, leading to outbreaks of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
The report says the schools were part of a broader effort by the government to “eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.” Removing kids from their parents “was not done to educate them, but primarily to break their link to their culture and identity.”
This forced assimilation policy allowed the government to “divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources.” Canada also edged out existing forms of Aboriginal government in exchange for band councils whose decisions were subject to Canada’s approval.
Small wonder then, that the report judges the current relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada to be “not a mutually beneficial one.” The TRC made 94 recommendations on ways to improve the situation, including ensuring that “Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.”
The MCK has clearly identified online gambling as having long-term economic benefits for its community. Nearly all of Canada’s provincial governments are either operating their own online gambling site or in the process of developing one. Why should a sovereign nation like the MCK not have the same opportunity?