Perron asks Senate committee for carve-out for Indigenous communities on cannabis
October 28, 2022 By Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The federal government needs to carve out a space for Indigenous communities in terms of the way the federal cannabis law is administrated between the federal and provincial governments, an MCK chief told the standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples last week.
“Indigenous communities have been shut out of the cannabis industry,” Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Chief Tonya Perron, the lead on the justice portfolio for the MCK. “Health Canada issues permits, while the provincial governments are in charge of retail sales of legal product leaving Indigenous communities caught in the middle,” she said.
Perron appeared in front of the committee last Wednesday for a five-minute testimony, followed by a question-and-answer session.
Perron said the MCK’s responsibility of the protection of health and safety of the community is just as important, and that the community has had to deal with the fallout of legal cannabis sales outside of the community.
“We also want to ensure proper access to legal products for not only Turtle Island but for all Indigenous peoples, and the current law is not accomplishing that here. We are seeing an increase in use. We are seeing an increase in adults seeking services for support, and we are seeing that there is a lack of funding to respond to needs,” Perron said.
For that reason, she said, the MCK implored the government to carve out a space in the law for Indigenous communities.
“Peacekeepers are being asked to do more and respond to impaired driving situations,” and still there is no funding support, Perron added, saying that no matter what the government ends up doing, Kahnawake is not asking for permission.
“Where we are situationally located in Quebec poses problems for getting into the retail business, but we want to make it very clear that we have our own laws and our own responsibilities and we want to be able to make legal products available in our community. We have a right to be able to do what we want to do,” she said.
Perron said the standing committee was “receptive” to the community’s message.
“My fingers are crossed that this time, the government will actually listen to us and allow Indigenous communities to participate economically in the cannabis industry,” she said.
Currently, the Kahnawake Cannabis Board has one member and the MCK is still looking for another member – and ideally, a third. At that point, the board will legally be able to do business, Perron added.
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