Opinion: Haudenosaunee Tobacco Law (HTL)

The Haudenosaunee Tobacco Law (HTL) – where do I start? First of all, according to the draft HTL, any business that grows, manufactures, retails, imports, exports, distributes and transports tobacco must be licensed under the HTL to operate.

Secondly, the working group who developed and wrote the HTL never sought input from the elected council. Nor did they consult with the community. Currently, the HCCC is holding three community meetings to inform the community about the HTL and presumably to seek approval.

The HTL is in response to Bill C-10 – the federal tobacco law that will criminalize all aspects of Six Nations’ tobacco industry except those business owners who have a federal license.

My analysis concludes that the HTL mirrors Bill C-10. The only difference between the two laws is that the HTL doesn’t fall under the Criminal Code of Canada. So how can the HCCC call the HTL our law? There’s nothing “our” about the HTL.

The HTL even refers to tobacco and tobacco products that do not have the HTL stamp as being “illegal.” The HTL gives authority to a Tobacco Governing Body to administer stiff penalties, including suspension of a business licence or denial of a business licence to business owners who are non-compliant with the HTL.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the HTL will be the enforcer. He/she determines if a violation exists regarding a business license and will have the discretion to determine penalties and/or shut down the business. The CEO can also impose a fine based on a recommendation from the Business Licensing Administration (BLA). The BLA can authorize the seizure and sale of any business property, equipment if the business owner fails to pay the fine. According to the HTL, the purpose of the fine is to defray the costs of administration and enforcement of the HTL.

There’s more. According to the HTL the business owners or any partners or investors must be 100 percent Haudenosaunee. But the HCCC can’t dictate to people who they can and can’t do business with. This is Six Nations, not Russia. Business owners have rights.

The HTL also says all members of the Tobacco Governing Board have to be 100 percent Haudenosaunee. So how does the HCCC propose to determine who is 100 percent? Are they going to use Blood Quantum like the feds and province?

For one thing, the HCCC has to practice what it preaches. The HCCC themselves are partners with non-Haudenosaunee developers. The HDI is operated and managed by people who are not 100 percent Haudenosaunee. The HCCC has advisors and spokespeople who are not 100 percent Haudenosaunee. This all reeks of a double standard being applied here.

But wait, there’s more. The HTL calls for the removal and banishment of a non-Haudenosaunee business partner at Oswe:ge, except any person authorized by the HCCC to be present on the territory or any person who leases real property within the territory. So, again, a double standard is being applied here. A non-Haudenosaunee business partner can stay as long as he/she is buddies with the HCCC or maybe a chief’s family. I don’t know what leasing property has to do with it unless the HDI is leasing land to a non-Haudenosaunee farmer.

Then the HTL says HCCC Peacekeepers are going to remove the non-Haudenosaunee at Oswe:ge. Who is going to pay the non-Haudenosaunee business partner or investor his/her due? These people are not just going to walk away without getting their money back.

Equally disturbing is that the HTL allows for the Business Licensing Administrator, within 48 hours prior notice, to enter a business and look at the books. This sounds so much like the Ontario government, who have been trying to get at the books or financial records of Six Nations business people for years. So are the business owners going to now have a Six Nations Revenue to contend with? That should be interesting, and certainly fodder for conflicts and confrontations.

And there’s still even more. There are eight fees that have to be paid yearly. Some businesses may have to pay more than one fee. According to the HTL, the fees will be based on factors such as the price of raw tobacco, changes in the Haudenosaunee at Oswe:ge economy – whatever that means. But according to the HCCC’s presentation, these fees are not “taxes.” No sir, these fees are the community taking care of its own. The fees will go into a Haudenosaunee Contribution Fund supposedly to meet community needs. But that’s only after the administration, enforcement and legal costs are covered.

That is the same thing the HCCC said about all the money they are getting and will be getting from developers. These monies, we were told, will go into a community trust for the community to access. So far this trust has been non-existent.

Anyway, I strongly encourage everyone who is involved in the tobacco industry to read this law. You need to understand the implications of this law. You need to understand what it all means to you as a business owner and as a member of Six Nations. You need to understand what it is you’re signing into.

I believe a tobacco law is the right thing to do, but it should be our own law not a law that simply mirrors the provincial and federal government laws and not a law that takes the rights away from Six Nations business owners. And that’s what the HTL does.

Councillor Helen Miller

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