AMC calls on Canada to include changes to the gaming provisions of the Criminal Code

November 27, 2020

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba


Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – In response to yesterday’s announcement that Canada will seek to amend the Criminal Code to allow single-event sports betting in Canada, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) calls on Canada to amend the Criminal Code to affirm First Nations’ rights to control gaming activities in accordance with their inherent jurisdiction and rights.  

On November 26, 2020, David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced proposed legislative amendments to paragraph 207(4)(b) of the Criminal Code that would permit provinces and territories to regulate and license single event sport betting on any sporting event except horse racing. Minister Lametti committed to launching dialogue with, ‘Indigenous communities  and organizations that have expressed an interest in the role of Indigenous communities in the regulation of gambling.’ 

AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said, “Yesterday’s announcement by Minister Lametti comes at an opportune time for the First Nations in Manitoba, who have an inherent right and critical role to play in the regulation of the gaming industry in Manitoba. First Nations leadership in Manitoba have a long history of asserting their right in face of unfair, oppressive and discriminatory provincial broken promises and unfair practices, that includes relegating promised First Nations casinos to rural and unprofitable markets. AMC member First Nations have always asserted a right to gaming and, as such, Canada must consult First Nations directly on any federal legislative measures that would impact on this right and the right to self-determination.”   

The amendments sought by the AMC are consistent with the Federal Government’s own commitment to Indigenous self-government and self-determination, as set out in its guiding Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples

In Manitoba, despite extensive efforts to work with the province for more than 30 years on gaming issues, First Nations are still excluded from the Winnipeg gaming market – the only significant market in the Province. In 2017, the AMC commenced gaming-related litigation against the Government of Manitoba and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MLLC) alleging that Manitoba and MLCC breached their contracts with the AMC, made negligent misrepresentations to the AMC and breached their fiduciary duty and the duty to consult. The AMC alleges that in 2005, the Manitoba agreed to prioritize First Nations gaming operations and to take steps to make sure that provincial gaming revenues are used to help close the standard of living gap between First Nations and non-First Nations in Manitoba. Instead of upholding those and other commitments, Manitoba opened a new gaming center in Winnipeg – Shark Club – without consulting First Nations, and refused to engage with First Nations about further gaming developments. Today, Manitoba continues to refuse to engage with the AMC on gaming in the province.  

Grand Chief Dumas continued, “Canada already knows what the position is of First Nations leadership in Manitoba: amend the Criminal Code to remove the role of the province when it comes to First Nations gaming. Indeed, in 2018 the AMC asked the predecessor to Mr. Lametti, Ms Jody Wilson-Raybould, to begin such a review of the Criminal Code and amend it but we never received an official response.”   

The Criminal Code provides that only provincial governments have the full authority to govern (“conduct and manage”) gaming and betting in Canada. The right of an entity under section 207(1)(b) of the Code that can be characterized as “charitable” to conduct and manage gaming exists at the whim of those same provincial governments.  This is the legacy of the Federal-Provincial Agreement that has given rise to the current division of powers over gaming since 1985.   

Grand Chief concluded, “While Canada accommodates the larger casinos and members of parliament in the east with what amounts to almost a single line amendment to the Criminal Code, it continues the existing federal-provincial arrangement status quo for First Nations. This is not good enough and Canada must do better. This division of powers was dictated to First Nations without consultation, and has to change. To this end, the AMC looks forward to working with Canada on a timely and expeditious engagement and consultation process with First Nations in Manitoba.” 

PDF of News Release