United Front needed against C-10

SIX NATIONS – According to Steven Ford, a practicing lawyer and proud Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) from Tyendinaga, a united front is the best defense against Prime Minister Steven Harper’s Bill C-10, criminalizing the Native tobacco trade.

Ford is one of the keynote speakers booked for the Two Row Times sponsored Pubic Information Meeting on Bill C-10, being held Saturday Feb. 22nd, at 2 pm, at Six Nations Polytechnic, 2160 4th Line Road, Ohsweken Ontario.

“There is great jeopardy to all First Nations and particularly Mohawk people through this bill,” says Ford. “I have been speaking wherever I can to inform our people of how dangerous this bill is to our sovereignty and our treaty rights under section 35 of the Canadian constitution.”

The most important message he brings is that of confronting Prime Minister Steven Harper’s government with a strong, determined and united front.

“Our people must support each other in our fight against this,” he says. “That means no matter if you are a traditional person or one who supports an elected council, we must all find a way to stand together as one.”

He sees the danger as much more than just against cigarettes and smoke shops, but as an attack against sovereignty rights and the right to form trade agreements, Nation to Nation, as has been going on since long before white men first stumbled onto the shores of Turtle Island.

“Fighting this bill benefits all Onkwehon:we people,” he says. “We must protect our on reserve jobs within our community as well as our rights and those of our children and their children.”
“It’s all about control over First Nations people,” Ford says. “They want to keep us poor and dependent on them so they can control us and keep us away from self- government.” He firmly believes that it is a fight that can be won, but it will require unity of purpose to accomplish, and the guts to try.

“This will turn into a fight,” he warns. “But we need to put ourselves in the best possible position to defend ourselves.”

By this he means using Canada’s own laws, which spell out the rights of Onkwehon:we people, and the relationship that should exist between the two rows of the Two Row Wampum, but have been ignored or forgotten.

Ford believes Harper’s single-minded arrogance can be an advantage to First Nations if it is dealt with properly and logically, using a methodical approach.

“They think they have control over us,” he says. “But when we engage in our rights, we can beat them on their own laws.”

He is not a big fan of the AFN, whom he believes has no right or power to represent First Nations people, and should not be coddling up to Harper on this issue or any other that would marginalize or water down treaties, as they were understood when drawn up.

More locally, Brant MP Phil McColeman has tried to use the fact that Grand River Enterprises does comply with Canadian government’s regulations and taxation as a template that all First Nations businesses should follow. But Ford refuses to get into that battle by saying, “If you can play within the government’s rules and make it work for you, that’s OK, as far as I am concerned.”

Ford believes the onus is completely on the shoulders of the non-Native consumer and not the warehousing, manufacturing or selling of tobacco on reserve.

“They want the vender to prove that their customers are tax exempt,” he says. “That is not our responsibility. If they want to set up, off reserve, and check cars, that’s their business.”

In the past the OPP have tried to do this on occasion. Although it may curtail some non-Native smokers for a while, these programs are known to be expensive and unsustainable in the long run.

Ford and the others are hoping to create a united defense against Harper’s attack on Onkwehon:we rights and sovereignty, and encourages anyone with questions about what Bill C-10 is and how it will affect them, to come to the Public Meeting, Saturday afternoon at 2pm.

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