The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs opposes Manitoba’s unilateral cannabis retail strategy

July 19, 2018

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, MB _ The Chiefs-in-Assembly of the AMC reaffirmed its position that the province of Manitoba does not have the jurisdiction to unilaterally develop a provincial cannabis strategy and must consult with First Nations. They also agreed to develop a First Nations strategy on cannabis and seek to work together with the province of Manitoba.

Today, representatives from the Province of Manitoba made a presentation “Cannabis Retailer Social Responsibility Fee and Wholesale Markups” at the Assembly of Manitoba’s 30th Annual General Assembly at Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation. This presentation explained the province’s announcement on it yesterday. Among other things, it includes a six percent social responsibility “fee” of annual revenues from the sale of recreational cannabis, effective next year and not payable until 2020, and an exclusion of the application of PST.  This is contrary to previous discussions the province had with First Nations leaders where it first identified a tax, then changed the wording to a “levy,” and now refer to it as a tax.

“The province does not have jurisdiction to unilaterally develop a strategy on the legalizing of the sale of cannabis without consulting First Nations in Manitoba.  This includes charging a ‘fee’, which, whether it is referred to as a levy or fee is in effect a tax,” said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

“We are extremely disappointed by the announcements that came out yesterday and the details shared with the Chiefs today. There was no mention of how the province plans to consult with First Nations and engage with us when it comes to a cannabis strategy for Manitoba,” stated Grand Chief Dumas. “If Manitoba meaningfully consulted and engaged with First Nations, they would have learned that each First Nation has different needs and ways of doing things.”

In November 2017 the AMC met with the provincial representatives informing them that the AMC was willing to act as a facilitator in developing a cannabis strategy that respects Treaty rights. The AMC again met with the province this month. At that time, they had reminded them that engaging with First Nations on a cannabis strategy is part of their duty to consult and accommodate.

Grand Chief Dumas continued, “The lack of First Nation inclusion in the cannabis tax framework infringes on our Treaty rights.  Taxation of First Nations, whether you call it a levy or a fee, cannot unilaterally be done by the province. It is up to the sovereign First Nations to determine which direction they wish to go, including how they would use “social responsibility fees” from cannabis sales for community-based healing programs and centres; campaigns to educate young people about the dangers of the drug; bolstering recreation opportunities for children and youth; and improving the capacity of First Nations police forces.”

The Chiefs-In-Assembly have directed the Grand Chief’s Office and Secretariat to work with First Nations through the AMC Chiefs Committee on Economic Development to develop a Manitoba First Nations Cannabis Strategy. Once this strategy is developed, Premier Brian Pallister and the responsible ministers will be invited to meet with Chiefs to discuss the province’s position.

Grand Chief Dumas concluded: “The AMC is willing to work with the government in good faith on this issue, and we call on them to meaningfully consult and engage with First Nations on this issue. I look forward to working with Premier Pallister on this in the very near future.”