My name is Ava Hill and I am Chief of the Elected Council of Six Nations of the Grand River. We have provided background information on our community in our written brief, so I will cut to the chase with our comments on Bill C-10.
Destruction of First Nations Economies
This Bill will have a devastating effect on our economy. It will create an economic void. It will mean a loss of 2000 jobs and unparalleled unemployment. Unemployment will be created in tobacco industry jobs related to tobacco farming, retail outlets, manufacturers and spin off businesses. For many this Bill will lead to poverty.
This government has stated time and time again that it is all about creating jobs and economic stimulus. This Bill will have the opposite effect and we can’t help wonder why we are being singled out for such harsh treatment.
In other sectors where 2000 jobs were being eliminated Canada would step in with a bail-out plan or alternative economic stimulus. Where is our alternative? Forcing honest hard working people onto welfare is not economic stimulus. Is Canada going to provide us with more welfare money to assist these individuals who will lose their jobs?
The tobacco industry provides jobs where they otherwise do not exist. Many of the businesses are family owned “mom and pop” entrepreneurs. This Bill will be taking food out of their mouths and their families. The number of our citizens employed in the tobacco trade affects many families. Many manufacturers also grow their own tobacco, which is used in local manufacturing. There is a group of some of these Tobacco Manufacturers in our community who are working with both the Elected and Traditional governments to develop regulations to control the tobacco industry in our community.
To us tobacco is a sacred plant which we have been using and trading for thousands of years. We see this issue as a jurisdiction and rights issue as well as an economic one. Canada is using its dominant force to take income from First Nations in favor of themselves, but yet offering nothing in return to replace the economic benefits from First Nations trade in tobacco.
When people have surplus money (beyond the basics) they spend it in the local economy. That creates additional jobs in the local economy. Restaurants, local grocery stores, car repair stores are but a sample. Not only will the Six Nations economy be devastated but surrounding non-Indian businesses in Brantford, Cayuga, Hagersville, Caledonia, to name a few, will also be affected.
This Bill is not about crime but lost tax revenues.
While the federal government wants to portray this Bill as dealing with “contraband” or illegal tobacco and crime, it is not. This connection to crime is a red herring and part of a fear mongering strategy used by this government to scaring legislators into passing this Bill.
Six Nations acknowledges that there may be a criminal element in many sectors of business and society, but it must be stated clearly that we do not support nor condone any connection with criminal activity related to the tobacco industry. The truth is that the majority of the producers, growers and sellers at Six Nations are not involved in organized crime and they too stand against any criminal element being involved with tobacco.
High federal and provincial taxes have made this more profitable for those seeking to take advantage, yet governments will not consider cutting back on this profitable enterprise. Six Nations welcomes efforts to squash out illegal activity connected with tobacco, if or when it exists within our community.
Federal scare tactics also claim that First Nations produced cigarettes contain dangerous or unhealthy additives, such as illegal drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many manufacturers grow their own tobacco, which is used in the production of the final product. As such, there is more quality control and First Nations cigarettes, in many cases are a purer product than those produced by the multi-billion dollar manufacturers.
Bill C-10 violates Canada’s Constitution
Bill C-10 is really about Canada trying to protect its tax revenues at the expense of First Nations communities. Yet we never agreed to allow the Crown or Canada to impose taxes on us or to invade our tax jurisdiction.
We have pre-confederation Treaties with the Crown. These Treaties were recognized and protected in Canada’s Constitution in 1982 and now form part of the rule of law in Canada.
All this to say that the relationship between the Iroquois Nations and the Crown in Canada is one of an equal and an ally. Never did we agree to be subjugated nor give the Crown or Canada the right to enact laws over us. We have consistently pressed that position at the international level, since 1924 at the League of Nations, when the presentation was made by Chief Deskeheh. This interference with our internal affairs and jurisdiction is a direct violation of the Guswentha – the Two Row Wampum Treaty. Our right to self-determination was also recognized by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which Canada has supported.
Put simply Bill C-10 is a violation of Canada’s Constitution and is therefore illegal and should be withdrawn.
Bill C-10 may also be a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act because it is focused primarily on First Nations communities. Should this Bill proceed we will review all our options including a charge of violating our Human Rights.
Also Canada did not meet its duty to consult in drafting this Bill. Our jurisdiction over trade, commerce and taxation is not something we ever surrendered to the Crown. The Jay Treaty of 1794 recognized our right to trade and commerce across the border.
This federal government says it is committed to reconciliation with First Nations. This Bill is not an act of reconciliation. The wealth and prosperity that Canadians enjoy today comes from the lands and resources of First Nations. Canada should be prepared to share this wealth by supporting First Nations economies rather than destroying them.
Canada withdraw Bill C-10 for the reasons cited above.
If Canada should decide to proceed with the Bill then they should make First Nations exempt from the law.
Canada should move immediately to just settlements of First Nations’ land rights grievances and pay outstanding moneys owed for stolen lands and resources (in the billions of dollars).
Both the federal and provincial governments share their billions of dollars in tax revenues from tobacco products with First Nations communities.
Canada withdraw this Bill and refers it to the Supreme Court of Canada as a violation of section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the duty to consult, and respect Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
Canada commits to a true consultation with First Nations rights holders across Canada. This consultation would be comprehensive with travel to all First Nations regions to discuss and seek input from First Nations on the larger issue of economic support for our communities leading to resource revenue sharing agreements and tax treaties with our nations.
Canada engage in a process with First Nations to review all federal legislation for compliance with Sections 25 and 35 of the Canadian Constitution.