SIX NATIONS – Wednesday night, Elected Chief Ava Hill represented her council at an input session organized by Band Council designed to offer opportunity to local cigarette manufacturers and smoke shop owners to voice their concerns and their plans in the face of the federal government’s pending final reading of Bill C-10, which, once passed, would criminalize the Native tobacco industry.
If the Bill passes into law, the economy of numerous reserves in Ontario would suffer great damage and thousands of Native workers would find themselves out of work and without an income.
As was the case when the Two Row Times conducted a similar gathering last month, the main room at Six Nations Polytechnic was close to filled as local cigarette manufacturers and retailers came together to discuss a strategy against the Bill itself but also to begin planning a defense strategy in case the OPP or RCMP begin conducting on reserve raids.
Six Nations Police Chief Glenn Lickers made a strong statement in the media that Six Nations Police Services personnel would not participate in any such raids should they be asked, to avoid his officers having to come against their own people over a political issue.
“This is war, and I expect our men, our warriors to be there for us,” District Councillor Melba Thomas said to the men in the room.
It was a call-to-arms, as it were, and Thomas challenged the men of the community to be ready to do whatever it takes to protect the community and its economic well-being.
Chief Hill left little room for doubt what her opinion of C-10 is, promising to work hard within the political system with lobbying and demonstrations on Parliament Hill.
She recalled the fight against the HST and how a large group of Six Nations and other Onkwehon:we people went to Ottawa and broke up into teams and conducted somewhere around 80 meetings in total with various political contacts of all parties and the Senate. Hill would like to see the same level of organizing take place in Ottawa regarding C-10.
“We can get the busses and we have in the past,” she said. “But then when we put out the call the busses are not filled.”
The most recent attempt was three busses Band Council provided for Six Nations parents to go to Toronto and demonstrate about the school supplies for local schools not being delivered in time of the start of last year’s school year.
In that case, there were only about 20 people in each bus, which can carry 49 passengers each.
There seemed to be some frustration with the many calls for Band Council to do something about C-10, but Chief Hill turned it back on the people, challenging them to set up a tobacco regulatory board or some kind of unifying organization that would include Band Council, the Confederacy, but also rank-and-file citizens of Six Nations as well as those employers within the tobacco trade.
Hill spoke about her attempts to join forces with the Confederacy on specific issues that threaten the entire community, like Bill C-10.
“So far I have not heard anything back from them,” she said. “This is something we all need to stand together on with the Men’s Fire, the Mohawk Workers, the women, and everyone. We must have a united voice.”
Hill asked for input on the numbers of people each smoke shop and factory employs that would be negatively affected by C-10, so that she can have accurate numbers when pushing against the Bill in Ottawa.
One man explained that he does not work in the tobacco trade directly but has 55 employees that work for his security company that protects smoke shops around the community from robbery, and that they too could find themselves out of work should the Harper government continue to play hardball with Six Nations economic development.
Hill promised another follow up meeting sometime soon to again try and facilitate an atmosphere for those directly threatened by Bill C-10 to organize themselves with the help of the Band office as an administrative body, should that be required.
Hill was glad to hear that there are several strategy meetings involving large and small manufacturers and smoke shop owners taking place around the reserve and encouraged them to continue.
Among others, Bill Monture, a member of the Men’s Fire, has been conducting regular meetings at his business location on Chiefswood Road, and Audrey Hill of the Turtle Island Trade and Commerce group has been holding meetings at the GREAT Theatre every Thursday night, which is open to the public.