Indigenous reaction mixed on provincial retail cannabis licences

While the proposed licences could open up economic opportunities in the cannabis industry, some Indigenous leaders are worried about the province inserting itself in their communities.

8 cannabis retail licences have been set aside for First Nations communities

The provincial government announced this week that it will be approving 50 new cannabis shops in the province. Eight of them will be located in First Nations communities. (CBC)

Indigenous community leaders have mixed reaction to the Ontario government's plan to licence eight cannabis retailer locations on reserves.

Francine Whiteduck, from Kitigan Zibi near Maniwaki, Que., represents the Canadian Indigenous Hemp Cannabis Consortium.

The organization promotes the economic opportunities in the sector.

"It's definitely a fair process. Experience doesn't seem to be any big factor in there," Whiteduck said on CBC Ottawa's All In A Day Friday.

"So in one sense it's fully open and in another you kind of wonder, 'OK, maybe we should think about this more on how we approach it.'"

Francine Whiteduck of the Canadian Indigenous Hemp Cannabis Consortium. (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

On Wednesday, Ontario announced 42 licences will be issued throughout the province. Another eight licences are being allocated specifically for stores operating in First Nations communities.

Those eight licences will go to the first applicants who get the approval of their respective band councils.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario website said it will begin accepting applications on July 31. 

Provincial framework questioned

Isadore Day is the CEO of Bimaadzmin, an Anishinaabe group focused on advancing First Nations communities.

"There's some skepticism coming out of the gates on this one," Day told CBC Sudbury.

"What we've been working on for quite some time now is First Nations jurisdictional models. Those models basically talk about keeping money in our community. It talks about having control of supply … and it talks about keeping safety at the forefront of everything we do."

Day said First Nations have a primary relationship with the federal government and questions whether the provincial framework is suitable.

"We definitely want to ensure that we are working with other jurisdictions," he said.

"But do we put ourselves in a position where we're beholden to the province and are ruled under the province? I think some will want to have that level of certainty and others will say: thanks, but no thanks."

The new stores are expected start opening in October.

Files from CBC Sudbury