Manitoba smoking ban to include First Nations
First Nations bars, restaurants and casinos will no longer be exempt from Manitoba's smoking ban, provincial minister Dave Chomiak announced Wednesday.
Chomiak, the minister responsible for gaming, said the province will move to extend its smoking ban to include First Nations communities and make it a condition in negotiationswhen licensing futuregaming and liquor establishments.
"It's a very complicated issue and we are committed to respecting the rights of First Nations and to protect Manitobans from the dangers of second-hand smoke," Chomiak said.
Beginning immediately, all new and future First Nations video lottery terminal and liquor establishments will need to comply with the smoking ban.
All existing First Nations bars and VLT sites will have one year to comply with the smoking ban.
Chomiak said the year-long period is consistent with the amount of time other businesses had to comply when the smoking ban was introduced in 2004.
As well, all native-run casinos with agreements coming up for renewal will need to comply with the ban.
Exemption struck down; province to appeal
Chomiak's announcement came in response to a ruling by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Albert Clearwater thatstruck down the part of the Non-Smokers Health Protection Act that exempted First Nations reserves.
Clearwater ruled on Aug. 14that the exemption discriminates against businesses outside reserves and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Chomiak said the province will appeal the legal basis on which Clearwater's ruling was made and is prepared to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada in what he anticipates will be a lengthy andcomplicated legal battle.
He said while the province accepts Clearwater's ruling that the smoking ban should apply equally to all Manitobans, he worries that it could have far-reaching economic implications in the province.
"This unprecedented extension of section 15 of the charter has implications for First Nations rights and economic developments in the north, including hydroelectric developments," he said.
"If we were to let the decision stand as it is, we would risk losing all the progress we've made on some initiatives such as aboriginal set-asides for hydro projects, perhaps the floodway [expansion project]."
Only specific exemption
Manitoba is the only province that had a specific exemption in its smoking ban legislation for establishments on reserve land.
Three provinces — British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan — have smoking bans that do not exempt facilities on First Nations land.
Saskatchewan went through a similar debate last year whenits government introduceda provincewidesmoking ban.
At first, the Saskatchewan government said the ban would apply to on-reserve facilitiesand First Nations casinos in the cities. However, First Nations groups insisted such laws were under their jurisdiction and the province backed off.