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‘Marry out, move out’ Kahnawake rule challenged in Longueuil courthouse

Click to play video: 'Court challenge begins over Kahnawake’s ‘marry out, move out’ law'
Court challenge begins over Kahnawake’s ‘marry out, move out’ law
WATCH: Court proceedings began Monday in Longueuil over Kahnawake’s controversial “marry out move out” rule which forces Indigenous residents who marry non-Indigenous residents to move out of the community. As Global’s Tim Sargeant reports, some families are fighting back with a lawsuit – Nov 27, 2017

A very delicate and emotional dispute on the Kahnawake reserve is being played out at the Longueuil Courthouse. The issue involves the rights of Mohawks to marry non-natives and still live in Kahnawake.

Sixteen First Nations’ people are challenging a Mohawk Band Council rule that precludes natives from living in Kahnawake if they marry non-natives.

The rule is commonly referred to as the “Marry out, move out” law. The local law formally called the Membership Rule was established decades ago as a way to protect the history, culture and customs of the First Nations people.

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But several Indigenous people who married non-natives argue the law is discriminatory and needs to change.

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“I want to see change that we’re all equal, that we have a right to be who we are, that we have a right to live in our own land,” Brenda Dearhouse-Fragnito told Global News outside a room at the Longueuil Courthouse. “No one has a right to do what they’re doing in Kahnawake right now.”

Dearhouse-Fragnito was raised in Kahnawake but married an Italian man decades ago and hasn’t been allowed to move back to her native land.

“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s horrible what they’re doing to the younger people,” she said.

The representative for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake disagrees and says the membership rule was established to protect their peoples’ traditions, customs and history.

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“The more we just say, ‘everybody can be here,’ the more difficult it’s going to be to maintain just who we are,” Joe Delaronde told Global News.

Delaronde says he was hoping to settle the dispute in Kahnawake but argues he’s ready to fight to protect the local rule.

“We’ve come by it democratically, through history, through hundreds of years and we’re going to stand by that all the way,” he said.

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The case is expected to continue until Dec. 13.

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