Before I begin, I want to extend my condolences to the family, colleagues, and friends of Arnold Chan, a member of Parliament who passed away this morning. I'm sure he will be greatly missed by his Ontario Liberal caucus colleagues and members of Parliament, who valued his thoughtful contributions to the democratic process in Parliament. Just on a personal note, I've known Arnold Chan throughout the last 15 years, when he worked with Dalton McGuinty and in the private sector as well. He was an upstanding individual who will be sadly missed. Again, our condolences.
I also want to acknowledge the unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation. I am presenting here today as the Ontario regional chief. I'm also the national chair of the Assembly of First Nations chiefs committee on health.
As we all know, Bill C-45, the cannabis act, intends to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution, and sale. The objectives of the act are to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements, and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties on those operating outside of the legal framework. The act is also intended to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.
As the committee has already heard earlier this week, police officials have stated they will not be prepared to deal with Bill C-45 when it becomes law on July 1, 2018. That's consistent among many jurisdictions and communities. It's accurate to say that first nations are also not prepared to deal with the ramifications of Bill C-45. In fact, this is a critical issue that is going to have huge impacts on first nations and all Canadians, but we're not yet in a position to fully understand and fully address those impacts.
In this part of my presentation I will probably put a lot of questions to the committee, because there are some unanswered questions, as you know.
The first is: does Canada even know the full impacts of cannabis yet? This is a situation where we're damned if we do and damned if we don't, and that speaks to the issue of engagement readiness. The reality is, the complexities of much of the process—just as an example, environmental legislation, or even getting communities' engagement ready, to ensure we have a substantive say on any legislative changes—make it a daunting task. It's complex in nature.
The Assembly of First Nations does not yet have a position on cannabis. It has been proposed that a national first nations summit on cannabis be held in the very near future.
In Ontario, it's accurate to say that first nations are much more engaged with the province's plan to establish a cannabis control board by July 1, 2018. Last Friday, when the Ontario government announced its cannabis plans, the chiefs of Ontario were briefed in advance by the Attorney General and the Minister of Finance. In the coming months, we will establish a bilateral table to work collectively on the Ontario cannabis control act. We are meeting with INAC minister on October 2, just prior to the first ministers' meeting. Rest assured, this will certainly be one of the major issues on the table for discussion.
Initial meetings with Ontario are proving to be respectful and focused on the real issues and challenges faced by first nations in preparation for the retail and distribution of cannabis. There will be many issues and opportunities that will need to be addressed. First, how will first nations communities regulate the sale and consumption of cannabis at the local level? Some of our communities may want to explore the potential of jointly owned cannabis operations, which will—or may—be federally approved.
What I mean is that there are going to be some jurisdictional issues and questions. As you know, unlike our brothers and sisters within the Métis community, we have a very specific land tenure under the Indian Act. Some communities may want to ban the sale and consumption of cannabis, much like dry communities ban alcohol, stemming specifically from provisions in the already embattled Indian Act.
Land governance, again, unlike with our Métis brothers and sisters, is going to be the crux of the challenges we face. All you have to do is look at the tobacco issues that we're faced with in many of our jurisdictions. I'll only speak for Ontario, but we have spent years dealing with those issues at the community level.
Any provincial legislation needs to have the flexibility to support first nations communities in pursuing development in ways that align with their own specific cultural and community values, for example the banning of recreational cannabis around community events and ceremonies. We take our protocols and ceremonies very seriously, and to a large extent cannabis has not been part of those ceremonies and community protocols. How do we deal with that? How is our jurisdiction respected if the communities set out their own laws and ordinances around that?
I remain optimistic that first nations will directly benefit from any revenue generated from these ventures. While historically Ontario first nations have been neglected in resource revenue-sharing with the Province of Ontario, this new industry provides an opportunity to turn a new leaf and to examine innovative revenue-sharing opportunities. We just need to avoid the potholes in the path going forward.
However, the biggest concern that first nations in Ontario and across the country have with Bill C-45 is the health and safety of our peoples. According to the national native alcohol and drug abuse program, cannabis is the second most-abused substance after alcohol, followed by cocaine and opioids. It was estimated as far back as 2003 in Ontario that an additional $33 million per year was needed to treat first nations drug and alcohol addictions. This is as a result of decades of underfunding.
What will happen when cannabis is legalized and more of our people are able to access this drug? We know there will be an increase in the need for addiction treatment. We know there will be a need for an increase in law enforcement as well. When the states of Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis sales in 2013, American Indian tribes were negatively impacted. This should be examined. Cannabis products were sold illegally on reservations as far as New Mexico, Arizona, and North and South Dakota. The primary targets were native American teenagers.
To quote the July 25, 2014 Denver Post article:
...tribal leaders are fighting a heroic but losing stand as state-legalized marijuana, cannibis-infused food, liquids, e-cigarette cartridges and other products make their way to young people from Colorado and Washington state-licensed dispensaries.
How are we going to ensure this does not happen here in Canada? For example, first nations policing is already chronically underfunded and understaffed. Over the past several decades the Chiefs of Ontario have passed at least 43 resolutions calling for more funding for first nations community policing.
To quote from our May 2017 “Strategy for a Safer Ontario” position paper:
The federal First Nations Policing Program fails to meet the needs of First Nations Police Services in Ontario, and its archaic assumptions place the safety of First Nations Officers and their community citizens at risk.
The Ontario Police Services Act provides a legislative basis for police services in the province of Ontario. However, first nations police services are not afforded the same protections other police services receive in the province, because there is no equivalent legislation for them specifically. Securing funding that is stable and sustainable is an ongoing necessity to improve the delivery of first nations police services. Funding is needed to build capacity to ensure the safety of first nations officers in responding to calls, to create specialized services, and to ensure there is adequate housing and infrastructure in support of first nations police services.
The need for training beyond front-line policing training is an integral part of community policing. This training should include cultural awareness training for native and non-native officers alike, so they understand the cultural norms of first nations communities. It should also include understanding social services, including dealing with addictions and other societal problems common in first nations communities.
On that list of quotes, I want to emphasize that you just had folks here from the police chiefs' organizations federally, and they were stating they are not going to be prepared, so you can only imagine what is going to need to be examined for first nations communities. We definitely are going to render ourselves hopeless here if something isn't looked at and responded to.
From the economic development standpoint to date, resource revenue-sharing agreements have largely been left to the provincial governments in relation to geological and environmental resources such as mining, forestry, and hydroelectric power. The bill has completely neglected any specific opportunity for first nations to participate meaningfully in or have any resources to appropriately respond to the implications of this emerging market.
Section 60 of Bill C-45 states that the Attorney General of Canada may enter into an agreement with the government of a province, or with any provincial, municipal, or local authority, respecting the sharing of fines and fees that are collected in respect to the prosecution of offences and for the compensation, administration, and enforcement of this act.
If the Government of Canada is serious about its dedication to a government-to-government relationship, first nations need to be included in this section to provide adequate responses to the implications of this bill within and surrounding first nations communities. This could include supporting first nations emergency responders, such as police, ambulance, and fire response, which will be impacted by manufacturing and sales within this emerging industry. A revenue-sharing agreement with first nations would ensure quality emergency response to promote community safety, which is an important factor in self-government.
While there may be some first nations that are unwilling to participate in the industry, which is their prerogative, there will be others that will want to participate as meaningful partners or even sole owners of related businesses. Within section 6.1(a), the minister may establish classes of applications for licences and permits. First nations should be a separate class and have a designated number of licences and permits attached to the class. The act permits the minister to revoke licences based on business incorporation being formed or organized outside of Canada.
As the Attorney General continues to work on federal legislation that impacts first nations' own ability to self-govern, more first nations will begin to assert their sovereignty and their jurisdictions. This could include self-regulation on cannabis but also on business licences and incorporation.
At this point, let me just make a very quick observation and suggestion. With respect to taxation in the province of Ontario, we know for sure that within the provincial and territorial regimes, when it comes to retail and distribution, that is going to be a ticket item. That's going to be part of the bottom line. We feel it's very important to examine what has happened in Ontario.
We will certainly want to explore the issue of taxation, and we know that the only way to do that within the context of the harmonized sales tax in Canada is through a CITCA. That was a heavy negotiation in Ontario. This legislation and the relevant policy-makers should be looking at that very closely, because taxation will become an issue.