Tempers flared and at least one person was injured during a demonstration outside the Six Nations Police station on Thursday.
A group of about 60 community members, some of whom are illegal cannabis dispensary owners, marched from Veteran’s Park to Six Nations Police to express their frustration with the Elected Council enacting the Six Nations Cannabis Control Law — and call on the Six Nations Police not to enforce it.
The Six Nations Cannabis Control Law came into effect June 21, a week after elected council announced the law’s finalization. The law has been in the making for over two years, after elected council formed the Six Nations Cannabis Commission, a body made up of community members aimed at regulating the industry on the territory.
The demonstrators said they believe the elected council does not have the jurisdiction to create laws on Six Nations. The protest travelled to the Six Nations Police station on Fourth Line Road via a police escort, that was offered by Six Nations Police to protect pedestrians on the roadway as they participated in the protest. Once demonstrators arrived, police say a group of men pushed their way onto the front lawn of the Six Nations Police station and into the station foyer.
Video of the demonstrations, posted to social media, showed the demonstrators shouting obscenities at Six Nations officer, one person threatening to kill an officer’s wife.
Further video showed a demonstrator driving a dirt bike directly into a group of police officers.
Police say that is when another group of community members supporting the Six Nations Police, arrived on the scene to demonstrate against the protesters.
When officers moved to clear the driveway, one man moved in toward police and an altercation broke out. That man was arrested and later released. Another man was injured in that altercation and was taken to hospital.
Another man attempted to climb the fence at the police station and was subdued by police.
The melee calmed down shortly afterward, with officers speaking to a crowd of people and explaining why police have to enforce the Six Nations Cannabis Law, citing safety of supply and the safety of community members.
On Saturday, Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief Mark Hill issued a video statement saying the cannabis law was enacted in response to Canada’s legalization of cannabis in 2018.
“Concerns were raised by the community about the impact this legislation would have on our people,” said Chief Hill. “Council has a responsibility to address these concerns and meet the needs (of the community).”
Several signs during last Thursday’s demonstration denounced what they claim is an 8% tax being issued by the commission, but Chief Hill said that claim is not true, and that the SNCC is not issuing any taxes as part of its regulations.
The SNCC held a series of community meetings in early 2020 before Covid-19 restrictions put the community in lockdown.
“Consultation with the public will continue in an open and ongoing manner,” said Chief Hill. “We continue to welcome your feedback.”
The law, among other measures, prohibits anyone who is not a band member from setting up a cannabis business on the territory. It prevents the misuse of traditional language and symbols on packaging, it ensures the security of Six Nations people, and aims to ensure the safety of the cannabis supply at Six Nations retail stores.
“Our community members requested that cannabis businesses give back in a measured and regulated way to fund initiatives in the community,” said SNCC Chief Commissioner Nahnda Garlow. “A community contribution model has been established by the commission that will donate to initiatives as determined by our community.”
There are no taxes on the product, she said, but the commission does ask for an application fee when looking to obtain a license from the Commission – a fee that some community members have opposed.
She said in-person meetings will resume once Covid restrictions are lifted.
Another demonstration was scheduled for June 21 outside the Six Nations Central Administration building.
Six Nations Police surrounded the building, along with a crowd of over 100 Six Nations community members in support of the Six Nations Police.
“I don’t want a repeat of what happened at the police station,” protest organizer Rhonda Martin said, noting that the demonstrators believe elected council was, “trying to overstep their boundaries and undermine our traditional council and Confederacy (council). There was no idea of causing any kind of harm to (elected Chief) Mark Hill or to any of the councillors.”