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Canada’s Six Nations Asserting Autonomy by Drafting Its Own Cannabis Laws

In order to affirm and assert self-governance, Canada’s Six Nations reserve is drafting its own cannabis laws.

A.J. Herrington

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Canada's Six Nations Asserting Autonomy by Drafting Their Own Cannabis Laws
Anton Watman/ Shutterstock

Canada’s Six Nations is drafting its own laws regulating the legalization of cannabis, asserting autonomy to govern its own affairs. Six Nations is the most populous of Canada’s sovereign indigenous states known as the First Nations.

As of 2017, the Six Nations had more than 27,000 members. Nearly 13,000 of the members live on the Six Nations of the Grand River reservation in the province of Ontario. Six Nations was formed when the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, and Tuscarora nations unified in the 18th Century.

Chief Ava Hill of the Six Nations elected council said that they were taking responsibility for cannabis regulation in the nation’s territory.

“Our main concern is the health and safety of our community, particularly the young people,” Hill said.

Hill also said that cannabis regulation gives the Six Nations an opportunity to be more financially self-sufficient.

“We have to start developing our own source revenue,” said Hill. “If this is one avenue to do that, that’s one avenue we want to explore.”

Cannabis Legalization Coming To Canada Soon

Cannabis is set to be legalized nationwide in Canada in October of this year after the passage of Bill C-45 this summer. But leaders of indigenous groups say that both the federal and provincial governments have failed to include them in the drafting of the legalization measure and subsequent regulations.

“It seems that again we’ve been left out in the dark with all the stuff that’s going on, and we’ve become a footnote,” Hill said. “The days of them sitting and telling us this is how it’s going to be need to end,” the chief added.

In June, a resolution from the Assembly of First Nations reiterated the sovereignty of indigenous nations and their authority to govern their own people and territory.

“The federal and provincial governments must recognize and respect First Nations sovereignty and jurisdiction over their reserves and traditional territories,” the resolution reads.

Also in June, the Chiefs of Ontario wrote to lawmakers still negotiating Bill C-45, saying that the federal government had “failed to involve First Nations” and the legislation “must respect” their jurisdictions.

No Tax Revenues For First Nations

Under Bill C-45, tax revenues raised from the sale of legal pot will be shared by the federal government, which will receive 25 percent, and the provinces, which will get the remainder. No portion has been allocated to the First Nations governments.

Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, another sovereign territory bordering Six Nations, said that indigenous governments should also receive money from cannabis taxes. The First Nations need to be able to respond to and address any potential unintended consequences of legalization, the chief said.

“I believe we have many issues to deal with and this will add to social impacts,” said Laforme.

Laforme also told local media in an email that he wants to be sure that cannabis legalization does not lead to problems for his community.

“I realize that it can provide economic opportunity, but I am concerned that social issues will outweigh economic activity,” Laforme said.

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