The House

Fed's failure to consult First Nations on pot sign of larger issue, chief says

The government's failure to more comprehensively consult with Indigenous groups ahead of the planned marijuana legalization is an example of how the relationship with Ottawa needs to change, according to Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.
National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde speaks during the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, Que. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The government's failure to more comprehensively consult with Indigenous groups ahead of the planned marijuana legalization is an example of how the relationship with Ottawa needs to change, according to the Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.

This week, the Assembly of First Nations voted to push the government to include them in the tax revenue sharing deal from the profits of marijuana grown and sold on their territories.

On Parliament Hill, a Senate committee also recommended the Liberal government hold back on legalizing cannabis for up to a year in order to address its potential for harmful effects in Indigenous communities.

"We were an afterthought," Isadore Day told The House, explaining the government does communicate, but ineffectively.

"We don't hear back from them until they've already made decisions on those very issue which we've discussed."

The prime minister indicated the government intends to push through along the current timeline — final vote on the bill is scheduled to occur in the Senate on or before June 7, with legalization expected to follow eight to 12 weeks later.

Day said issues like tax jurisdiction and addictions support need to be dealt with, or communities might decide to pursue their own plans anyways.

Consultations with Indigenous communities need refocus on equality in order to be effective, Day said.

"Nation to nation isn't top down."

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day talks about how Indigenous communities plan to tackle the federal government's plan to legalize marijuana. 7:09

now