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Public Statement by Creator’s Choice on the June 29th Cannabis Referendum in Wahnapitae First Nation

Posted in Cannabis Referendum, Cannabis Regulations, News, and Public Statements

PDF Version available here.

Creator’s Choice welcomes the result of the June 29th, 2019 Wahnapitae Cannabis referendum. The people of Wahnapitae made the decision (by a margin of 44 to 40) to allow the sales of cannabis and cannabis accessories on our territory. We are overjoyed that the people have affirmed their support for the grassroots Anishinaabe cannabis industry in Wahnapitae that we represent, and we will work to ensure that this support grows and becomes more informed about the important work Creator’s Choice is doing to provide medicinal cannabis products to those in need.

We know that many Wahnapitae members need more information about cannabis and proof about how an indigenous cannabis industry can benefit us all. We want to take this opportunity to reiterate our offer to all Wahnapitae FN members to come for a free tour of our facility and to enjoy a free coffee on us. We are very proud of our facility and our staff, and we welcome your questions, advice, and scrutiny of our operations. 

Creator’s Choice is fully committed to working with the people of Wahnapitae and our Chief and Council to ensure that the opportunities of the cannabis industry are available to all of our people, and that any negative consequences of the industry are mitigated. We have always operated our business from the standpoint that as free Anishinaabe people living in our home lands it is our right and responsibility to support ourselves on this land – as long as we do not cause harm to others. 

Our business is based on providing natural medicines to people in need, and we remain fully committed to the health, safety and prosperity of our customers, employees and community members. The Wahnapitae referendum shows that the majority of the people stand with us, and want us to continue providing natural medicines on our territory. 

Creator’s Choice also wants to make it clear that we will not accept the arbitrary imposition of outside laws or regulations concerning cannabis by the Wahnapitae Band Council. The people voted to allow the sales of cannabis and its accessories on our territory, and we believe that any regulations which govern cannabis on the traditional territory of the people of Wahnapitae must be developed by the people, the Wahnapitae cannabis industry, and Chief and Council working together in accordance to Anishinaabe custom and convention – not according to the process or rules that have been imposed on us by the colonizers.

Unfortunately, in both their general relationship to the people of Wahnapitae, and in their specific conduct in the cannabis referendum, the Wahnapitae Chief and Council has disrespected basic democratic norms, broken with Anishinaabe custom and convention, and failed to advance an agenda that benefits the people of Wahnapitae. In recent months, Chief and Council has:

  1. Passed a standing policy that muzzles Wahnapitae FN members and prevents them from even speaking at the meetings of Chief and Council
  2. Substituted a different referendum question on the June 29th referendum ballot than was announced in the referendum notice.
  3. Refused to provide members of Wahnapitae FN with the list of electors able to vote in the referendum as per section 4.2(1)(a) of the Indian Referendum Regulations of the Indian Act.
  4. Denied members from Creator’s Choice to speak at the June 1st public community meeting on the referendum question.
  5. Denied Creator’s Choice the ability to send out educational materials in the “information package” that was mailed out in the referendum, and publicly attacked the mailout that Creator’s Choice did send out on the territory. 
  6. Passed a set of Cannabis bylaws at a secret Band Council meeting on June 28, the day before the referendum, with no community consultation. These bylaws prohibit all cannabis sales on the territory that do not come from Canadian LP and are in direct contradiction to the results of the June 29 referendum. 

When voting or campaigning for or against a referendum question, it is a fundamental democratic right of electors to know what the question is on the ballot, who one’s fellow electors are, what the electoral rules are, and to be able to speak openly to the electorate in meetings and in print. All of these rights were denied to Creator’s Choice and other members of Wahnapitae First Nation because of the process by which this referendum was held.

Not only do the actions of Chief and Council violate the rules they are supposed to follow as an entity created by Canada’s Indian Act, but they also violate our own customs and conventions as Anishinaabe people. According to these customs and conventions, the role of leadership is to facilitate and express the views and opinions of the people. According to our customs and decision making systems, all Anishinaabe have a right to publicly express ourselves, and to collectively come to a resolution of our issues through a consensus based process that works in the best interest of our coming generations.

Within hours of the passage of the June 29th referendum question, Wahnapitae Chief and Council published Bylaw No. 2019-01: A bylaw to provide for the regulation of Cannabis retail sales within the Wahnapitae First Nation. We will address the myriad problems with this bylaw in a separate document, but for now we will merely note that:

  1. The bylaw was drafted without input or knowledge of the people of Wahnapitae or the Anishinaabe cannabis businesses that are operating on our territory with the support of the people. 
  2. The bylaw was passed at an unannounced council meeting on June 28th, the last day of the referendum, without any aspect of this bylaw being made public or discussed within the context of the referendum campaign.
  3. The bylaw is based on the prohibition of cannabis, a prohibition that was rejected by the people of Wahnapitae in the referendum. On this basis alone, these bylaws should be repealed as they go against the direct decision of the people in the June 29th 2019 referendum. 
  4. The bylaws further go against the decision of the people of Wahnapitae to allow cannabis sales on their territory by insisting that all cannabis must be obtained from a Health Canada licensed producer and thus criminalizing cannabis grown by Indians without a government license. 
  5. The Chief and Council do not have a mandate from the people to develop a regulatory structure for cannabis on our territory. The referendum question publicly put to the people of Wahnapitae and announced on the notice of referendum asked “YES/NO if the people were in favour of sales of cannabis and its accessories on Wahnapitae First Nation Territory.” However, the text appearing on the actual ballot is significantly different from the notice as it states “A NO vote means that Wahnapitae First Nation will ban and prohibit any sales of cannabis and cannabis accessories on this territory. A YES vote means that Wahnapitae First Nation will regulate the sales of cannabis and cannabis accessories on its territory.”  This is a fundamentally different question which gives the power to regulate the cannabis industry to Chief and Council, rather than determining the will of the people as to whether they wish to ban or approve of cannabis sales as per the custom and convention of the Anishinaabe.

For these reasons and more, Creator’s Choice raises its objections to the behaviour of Chief and Council, and we announce our commitment to fight for Anishinaabe self regulation of cannabis on our territory which:

  1. Takes into account the voice and views of all the people of Wahnapitae First Nation, as well as the cannabis businesses and Chief and Council
  2. Follows a free and open process of debate and discussion in accordance to Anishinaabe custom and convention. 
  3. Puts the needs and requirements of the people of Wahnapitae ahead of Canada’s corporate cannabis industry.
  4. Builds upon the best practices of Indigenous cannabis businesses in other communities.

We look forward to discussing these matters further with all concerned. 

For more information, contact Derek Roque at 705-669-7094 or visit www.creatorschoice.org.

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