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Senate committee urges Cannabis Act overhaul to address exclusion of First Nations

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A Senate committee said the federal health minister should amend the 2018 cannabis law to recognize the right to control the possession, sale and distribution of cannabis on indigenous lands.

In a report filed Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Peoples said many issues identified prior to legalization remain unresolved, blocking some indigenous peoples from still-profitable industries. said to have been.

Legal gaps are fueling the rise of what some say. “Red Market” It operates under Indigenous sovereignty, but operates in defiance of federal and state regulations, creating jurisdictional confusion and potential conflicts with authorities.

“For the past 150 years, indigenous peoples have been excluded from economic opportunities on their lands,” said the report. look inside from outside.

“The Commission has heard that this exemption continues today in the fishing, forestry and cannabis markets.”

Progressive Senator Brian Francis, chairman of the PEI and Lenox Island Indigenous Mr. Mikumaw, called the situation “another example of how Indigenous peoples are being let down by Canada.”

“Once again, a government that promises to be committed to building new relationships with indigenous peoples based on a recognition of rights, respect and partnership has failed to deliver on its promises,” he said Thursday at a press conference in Ottawa. Told.

The commission launched an investigation into the impact of cannabis laws on Indigenous peoples in 2022 and gathered testimony from 29 witnesses. The 38-page interim report made 13 recommendations.

The report calls for revenue sharing

Lawmakers are calling for a redistribution of cannabis-related tax revenues and an overhaul of the cannabis licensing system to increase the number of licensed indigenous cannabis growers.

The report recommends research into the impact of cannabis legalization on the health of indigenous peoples and urges the expert panel reviewing cannabis legislation to work with indigenous peoples to address outstanding issues. urging.

These issues include, among others, the lack of proper consultation from the outset, the refusal to recognize Indigenous jurisdiction, and the lack of enforcement of Indigenous cannabis laws.

Progressive Senator Michelle Audet, from Urshat Mac Mani Utenam, Quebec, said the introduction of the bill was a missed opportunity.

“From the beginning there was no voice for us and to this day we have to report and remind Canada that we are here and that its recommendations need to be implemented. ‘ she told reporters.

The federal government passed the Cannabis Act in 2018, but left no mechanism for Indigenous peoples to regulate cannabis in their territories, the Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Peoples said in a June 14 report. (Francis Tessier Burns/CBC)

According to the report, several witnesses raised the idea of ​​a “red market” where indigenous countries and communities could partner and exchange expertise and do business with each other. What exists in the United States is a nationwide patchwork in which some Indigenous peoples have cut deals with the state, while others insist on doing business with the state. their autonomy.

Indigenous police often lack the resources to enforce cannabis regulations, according to the report, while citing what one eyewitness described as “a delicate relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canadian law enforcement.” Considering that, state officials may be hesitant to impose regulations, he said.

Accordingly, the Commission recommends that the federal government increase cash flow to Indigenous peoples for enforcement of the Banded Cannabis Act and address this issue through the proposed Indigenous Police Act.

Independent Senator David Arnott said it is not too late for the Liberals to close the gap and correct the bill’s flaws.

“This is a golden opportunity for the government to act,” he said.

“There is still time for the government to remedy the situation that is again exposing indigenous peoples.”

A spokesman for Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in an email that the health minister’s office thanked the senators for their work and would “take the appropriate time to review the report”, but was not in a position to comment. said no.

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