Prepared by Councillor Helen Miller

After reading the story “Referendum on alcohol coming to Six Nations Nov. 19, 2014,” I am compelled to share my research. The most recent decision Council made on alcohol was in 2005 when a resolution was passed giving the Six Nations Veteran’s Association permission to serve and sell alcohol in the Community Hall at their Remembrance Day luncheon. Prior to that Council passed a resolution in 2004 that there was to be no alcohol sold or otherwise in band-owned buildings.

The only section of the current Indian Act that mentions alcohol is Section 85.1 (By-laws relating to intoxicants.) Council can make by-laws “prohibiting” the sale, barter, supply or manufacture of intoxicants on the reserve. The sections of the Indian Act (91-100) that dealt specifically with the sale, manufacture and distribution of alcohol was repealed in 1985. However, Six Nations never had a Community Referendum back then to support or not support the sale, manufacture and distribution of alcohol on the reserve.

At present, Six Nations does not have liquor laws to regulate and monitor the selling, manufacturing and distribution of alcohol, other than Section 88 of the Indian Act (General provincial laws applicable to Indians). This section states that in the absence of our own laws, regulations etc., Provincial laws will apply on reserve. There are people in the community who do get a Provincial liquor license when holding an event.

In 1992, it’s noted in records that Police Chief Glenn Lickers was to assist Council in drafting a Liquor By-law which was to provide control of the intoxicants, substances, solvents, prevention of disorderly conduct and nuisance associated with public parties. Documentation does support By-law No. 1-1992 was developed. However, there is no record of this By-law.

The closest Six Nations came to having a referendum on the sale, manufacture and distribution of alcohol on the reserve was in 1988 when a number of residents and fundraising groups wanted to sell or supply liquor at the Six Nations Veteran’s Association property, the Ohsweken Community Hall and the Six Nations Arena. At that time a Council resolution was passed to hold a Community Referendum on Sat. May 7, 1988 to determine whether liquor can be sold or supplied at the aforementioned places in accordance with the Ontario’s Liquor Licence Act.

Unfortunately, the Community Referendum never happened. On May 3, 1988 a resolution was tabled to rescind the May 7, 1988 resolution supporting a Community Referendum. The vote was a tie vote so Chief William Montour had to cast the tie-breaking vote and he voted “No.”

In cancelling the Community Referendum, some people who supported the sale of alcohol accused Council of infringing upon their rights. They believed that by rescinding the resolution Council took away their right to vote on the issue. A resolution was also passed that Council concur with the wishes of the community that the question of the sale of liquor on Six Nations not be put forward again.

In 1985, Council passed a resolution that requested Minister of Indian Affairs pursuant to section 4 (2) of the Indian Act to petition the Governor-in-Council to declare by Proclamation that section 94 of the Indian Act no longer apply to those lands owned by the Six Nations Veteran’s Association in the village of Ohsweken and that the Ontario Liquor License Act be in force with respect to the said lands. On May 5, 1985 Council rescinded the above-mentioned resolution.

There is no denying some people in our community sell alcohol at Buck & Does or fundraising events. Some people opened bar-like facilities that have since been shut down by the Six Nations Police. Others have buildings that are rented to individuals, organizations or sports teams. We have card clubs in the mix as well.

Currently, the Six Nations Economic Development is working in partnership with IPA Enterprises to open a brewery at Oneida Business Park. The staff developed a multi-level community engagement process that is intended to reach and get input from as many people as possible within a two month timeframe. The process will determine if the community would support the development of Six Nations liquor laws and the brewery. The end result will be a Community Referendum.

On May 2, 1959, Council did have a Community Referendum to bring into force section 96 (a) of the Indian Act as per regulation. The wording on the ballot had to be according to the Indian Act Referendum Regulations: Are you in favor of a Proclamation being issued by the Governor-in-Council declaring that it “shall not be an offence for a person to have intoxicants in his possession on the Six Nations Indian Reserve” if such possession is in accordance with the laws of the Province of Ontario? The results of that Community Referendum were: Number of electors entitled to vote: 3985; Number of electors who voted: 278; Number of votes cast in favor: 211; Number of votes cast against: 65. So this meant Six Nations members could “possess” alcohol on reserve. So the electors did support Provincial liquor laws applying on reserve.

In 1958 all Indians in Ontario could legally purchase, possess, and consume alcohol in accordance with the laws of Ontario as long as they were bought off reserve.

Aside from Six Nations not having its own liquor laws, we don’t have a viable community decision-making process, what with consensus an impossibility these days with Six Nations people scattered all over the world.Unfortunately for those people who don’t support a Community Referendum, it’s the only way we can get a fair representation of the people.

Councillor Helen Miller

2251 Chiefswood Rd, R.R.# 2
Ohsweken 519 445-4561

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