OHSWEKEN – Tobacco retailers, manufacturers and other industry workers on Six Nations will soon be paying taxes on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory to either the Canadian federal government or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) following the passing of the controversial Tobacco Law at Confederacy Council this weekend.
While details on how much retailers and growers will have to pay are not currently available, the draft version of the tobacco law states that those who opt out of paying the HCCC tax can decide to pay taxes on their tobacco to “foreign nations” if they so choose.
In a statement issued by the HCCC, Haudenosaunee Trade Collective (HTC) representative Kris Green said, “This is a truly historic moment for us. This is something that was begun by our grandfathers and two decades later here we are implementing what they started.”
The Tobacco Law at Oswe:ge has been in development by the HTC along with the HCCC since the Harper government announced plans to make changes to the Criminal Code of Canada making all unstamped tobacco contraband and subject to mandatory fines and jail time for those guilty of trafficking.
Previously, HCCC and the HTC received criticism and opposition to the law from three clans, Onondaga Beavers, Cayuga Snipe and Cayuga Wolf, saying imposing a law of this kind is contrary to the Great Law and replicated a western governance model. A resolution was passed in light of those concerns and the HTC made a promise to meet with those three clans and work together to address their concerns and amend the law through to December 2015.
However during this weekend’s council meeting where representation for the Onondaga Beavers, Cayuga Snipe and Cayuga Wolf were absent, the law was re-proposed and passed in a surprise move – leaving many wondering what came of the December 2015 timeline given previously and what of the amendments made that were requested by clan families.
The law will be finalized and implemented over the next few months. Green said, “Now the real work begins. The next steps are a long list of housekeeping items that have to happen now to set up the tobacco board and license office, establishing priorities before actual implementation begins.”
According to the statement issued by the HCCC, the trade collective will give monthly updates to the HCCC on the progress of tobacco law implementation.
This is the first type of taxation law the HCCC has ever attempted to implement on Grand River territory, and the first time a traditional council has put forward a law of this type in the history of the Confederacy.
Haudenosaunee communities across North America including Kahnawake, have also been working on implementing tobacco regulations that would tax their citizens through the community’s elected band council. Kahnawake’s tobacco regulations were recently shared with that community and approximately 20 residents were in attendance to hear its details and provide feedback.