Quebec – A few days away from the adoption of the Canadian Cannabis Act, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) considers that the Canadian Senate is the last hope for delaying its implementation. “Despite the Trudeau government’s multiple commitments to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, it is clearly indifferent to its obligations, particularly in the area of consultation. With regard to the legalization of cannabis, this offloading leads us to call on the sensitivity of the members of the upper house to delay the implementation of the Act,” says Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL.
While acknowledging that there are communities working to exploit the commercial aspects permitted through the Act, the AFNQL has consistently advocated with federal ministers the concerns it deems more than legitimate regarding the anticipated impacts of the legalization on a fragile social fabric.
In order to demonstrate good faith and fulfill its obligations, the Trudeau government must rely on principles that have been mutually adopted with First Nations, such as those adopted in December 2017 as part of the new fiscal relationship. These principles reiterate the respect for First Nations’ right to self-determination by providing sufficient funding to allow them to plan and invest according to their own priorities and to move towards eliminating the gaps between First Nations citizens and other Canadians.
The AFNQL denounces loud and clear the agreement between Canada and the territorial and provincial governments, which provides for the sharing of revenues from sales and production. “To our knowledge, no provision has been made by the federal government to ensure that First Nations participate actively in the equitable distribution of these revenues to counter the serious impact of legalizing cannabis on First Nations citizens and their communities,” insists the Chief of the AFNQL in a letter recently transmitted to the Canadian Prime Minister.
“Faced with the indifference of the Canadian Prime Minister and his government, we must turn to the members of the Senate who seem more sensitive to the challenges at our doorstep, including cannabis. The burden on communities will be significantly increased in terms of public health, social services, and public safety. Are we the only ones who see the wave coming and not being adequately equipped to deal with it? The federal government cannot transfer its responsibility to the provinces and territories without consulting First Nations beforehand.”