CHIEFS OF ONTARIO REJECT BILL C-10 THAT WILL CRIMINALIZE THE TOBACCO TRADE, CALLING IT A DIRECT ATTACK ON FIRST NATION CONSTITUTIONAL AND TREATY RIGHTS
Toronto, ON (June 10, 2014) — The Chiefs of Ontario are calling the latest Conservative bill a direct attack on the livelihood of First Nations people. The act to amend the Criminal Code section dealing with trafficking in contraband tobacco introduced by the Harper government was done once again without due consideration of the inherent and Constitutional rights of First Nations.
Bill C-10 specifically targets the First Nation tobacco trade, defining First Nation tobacco as “contraband tobacco” and linking its trade to organized crime without any substantive evidence showing the link. At the same time Prime Minister Harper announced Bill C-10, he also announced $90 million for the RCMP to specifically target contraband tobacco.
The traditional practice and trade of tobacco and tobacco-related products has evolved into a commercial commodity that supports many First Nation families particularly in Six Nations, Kahnawake and Akwesasne communities.
During third reading on May 30, 2014, members of Parliament acknowledged that Bill C-10 impacted Aboriginal and Treaty rights and that there was not proper consultation. The Bill is currently awaiting second reading in the Senate which is proposed for June 10, 2014.
“Traditional tobacco is of central importance to the identity, ceremony and traditions of First Nations. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code is in conflict with First Nations inherent and constitutional rights, as recognized by section 35 of the Constitution Act,” said Regional Chief Stan Beardy.
Chief Ava Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River announced the signing of a declaration, along with other Iroquois communities denouncing Bill C-10.
“The Six Nations elected council has repeatedly informed the government that the economy and trade in our territory is our right to govern and regulate. In 1994, the elected council passed a resolution stating that any product made on Six Nations is tax free,” said Chief Hill. “As identified by Article 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples government is required to, ‘consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior, and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.”
The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada.