MONTREAL -- As businesses across Quebec have begun to open their doors with COVID-19 restrictions lightening, the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) communities of Kahnawake and Kanesatake are taking a more cautious approach.


The Kahnawake COVID-19 Task Force announced that businesses can reopen June 1, but much slower than other regions.

“We want to be very conservative in what we’re doing because what makes us very strong as a community also makes us vulnerable,” said Public Safety Unit director Lloyd Phillips.

The community is very tight knit, and Phillips said the task force is putting community health and safety before the economy.

Dustin’s Convenience typically sells take-out and dine in food from its kitchen. When the pandemic hit, the store went drive-thru only, and it will continue doing so.

“The June 1 opening is a bit fast for me, so that’s why I decided I’m still going to keep my doors closed, and keep with the drive-thru, as it’s doing good,” said owner Virginia Rice Standup.

The task force has done a health check on over 800 households on the territory and businesses must be inspected and certified for safety before opening their doors.

Contact tracing and isolation are also top priority.

“We are still continuing financial support to businesses as we reopen, which will facilitate employees staying home for 14 days if they’re sick rather than coming to work just because they have to get paid,” said Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre director Lisa Westaway.

Tekaronhiahkhwa Margaret Standup took business at Traditions Art Shop & Studio online when the pandemic hit, and hopes that those who come to visit Monday use caution.

“Patience,” she said. “Have patience and just really be respectful about our guidelines, our protocols. You know what we’re asking.”

She added that though the closure has been tough for small business owners, in Kahnawake the biggest concern with reopening to those off the territory is to keep families like hers out of harm’s way.

“Keeping them safe is my main priority,” she said.


Kahnawake’s northerly sister community Kanesatake will remove restrictions on local businesses that have been closed.

The community’s Kanesatake Emergency Response Unit issued a news release saying “businesses previously required to close will be permitted to reopen.”

Safety and sanitary measures will be in place and checkpoints in and around the community will come down, the release reads.

The ERU’s Access Control Team will continue to patrol the community ensuring non-residents do not have access to waterfront, parks or other public spaces, and checkpoints will remain on side roads.