Ontario Regional Chief – Cannabis Act Bill-C-45 / First Nations

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Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day at the NAN Assembly
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day at the NAN Assembly

OTTAWA – In response to the following letter yesterday, I had a discussion with Senator McCallum to get details on how the majority liberals will vote. There is a strong indication, as well, that after today’s vote there will be a need for a three-month table-top process to sort out implementation.

As Co-Chair of the National Cannabis Task Force along with my friend and colleague Regional Chief from Quebec / Labrador, we will convene our meeting Friday and we will have Senators on the line to discuss this development.

We are in interesting times.

An Open Letter to the Senate of Canada, Re: Inclusion of First Nation specific amendments to Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act

Ontario Independent Senator Tony Dean, Sponsor of Bill C-45
Senator Lillian Dyck, Chair of Aboriginal Peoples Committee

Dear Senators:

As you prepare to debate amendments specific to First Nation concerns tomorrow, and then vote on Bill C-45 this Thursday, I am writing to remind you that our leadership in Ontario, indeed across the country, have grave concerns with the Cannabis Act. Firstly, the Government of Canada has failed to involve First Nations in the development of this Bill, which goes against the nation-to-nation relationship and Cabinet mandates established by Prime Minister Trudeau.

Specifically, Bill C-45 must respect First Nation jurisdiction. If they choose to do so, our communities have the right to invest, own and operate cannabis facilities and dispensaries. If they choose to do so, our communities will have nothing to do with cannabis, just as some are dry communities, banning alcohol sales. First Nations not only have the right to do business with each other but with our brothers in sisters south of the border in the United States. We do not believe in tariffs or restricting trade in North America.

Bill C-45 must also provide the necessary resources so that First Nations are able to ensure the health and safety of their peoples. This means we need the necessary resources to educate about the perils of cannabis addiction. It is proven that over-consumption of cannabis by young people leads to permanent brain damage and mental health problems.

The Thunderbird Foundation pointed out that 89 percent of Indigenous youth who have entered addictions programs cite cannabis as the number one drug of consumption. While Health Canada announced $36 million for an awareness and education campaign, there are no indications of a First Nation-specific campaign.

This Friday, the Assembly of First Nations Task Force on Cannabis will be meeting. Regional Chief Ghislain Picard and I are the co-chairs. At that time, we will be reviewing all of the Senate amendments. We will also prepare for the eventual passage of Bill C-45 and examine options and recommendations to present to leadership across the country.

In closing, Canada has been very complacent in realizing First Nations right to be consulted. First Nations across this country will truly be affected by this societal shift and public policy overhaul when it comes to legalizing cannabis. Social issues; health opportunities and concerns; economic and wealth opportunities; and, to a larger degree, First Nation jurisdiction in any given policy sector that is intersected by Bill-C-45. I want to convey urgently and respectfully to this Senate, Canada has underestimated First Nations place in the legalization of cannabis. Now it’s time for this chamber of sober second thought to compel the House of Commons to act responsibly to First Nations on this matter.

Isadore Day
Ontario Regional Chief

cc. Chiefs in Ontario
Assembly of First Nations Executive
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould
MP Bill Blair

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