BFN Chief and Council Statement on Old Garden River Road Lands and Cannabis
Posted: Jun 11, 2020

Recently, Chief and Council has become aware that it is very likely that a member of Council is leaking confidential in camera information to certain individuals in the community and that the information provided is incorrect.  This breach of confidence, coupled with the barrage of social media misinformation has prompted a response to set the record straight.  

To be clear, Chief and Council is not opposed to an operation of a community garden or the potential for the eventual operation of dispensaries within Batchewana First Nation’s territory.  What Chief and Council is concerned with is the unilateral actions being taken by some members without concern for process or procedure.  To frame the issues otherwise is nothing more than an attempt at smoke and mirrors. 

There have been allegations of colonialism directed at Chief and Council, and a desire to return to past practices, but one must ask how these individuals who make these claims propose to run and administer to a First Nation with a membership that exceeds 3000 people in the year 2020?  The hard truth is that there needs to be some form of process or procedure to do so.  When a person decides to act on their own without concern for the rules that the majority of the membership follow, this is unfair.  

Membership needs to ask themselves why one or a select few are able to act outside of policies, procedures and rules, and then ask themselves what would happen if we ALL did this.  

Chief and Council, once elected is there to represent the membership as a whole, not only the people who voted them in, or their family and friends.  As such, membership as a whole should be permitted to give their thoughts on the passing of a law regarding cannabis for the First Nation.  More specifically, members should provide Chief and Council with their position on some of the following questions: 

- whether they wish for a cannabis dispensary to be located next door to their home; 

- what is in place to ensure that organized crime or those affiliated with organized crime do not become involved in cannabis operations in our communities; 

- what measures will be put in place to deal with the increased traffic and wear and tear on the local roads; 

- how many licenses would Batchewana First Nation grant in each year to ensure there is not an over saturation of the market; 

- what will be the long-term effects on the current housing shortage that Batchewana First Nation currently finds itself in; 

- should cultivation centres be built in residential areas or the Batchewana Industrial Park;

- should the First Nation itself engage in the operation of dispensaries or cultivation centres or should individual members be given the opportunity; 

- if individual members are given the opportunity to engage in cannabis related enterprises will they be required to provide a monetary amount to the First Nation to cover costs associated with increased traffic and the administration of a proposed law

- or should the First Nation not draft its own law and rather submit to the current provincial law in place regarding cannabis enterprises; 

- etc.

The issue is not a dispensary itself but rather the process that must be undertaken to ensure fairness and the safety of our members.  To do so, Chief and Council must ensure all of membership’s concerns are addressed through a process.…a process that was taking place which is still not complete, and yet some decided that this did not matter and opened their own cannabis (business) without a BFN license or permit. These unilateral actions taken by a few are unfair to Batchewana First Nation membership as a whole.  

And while a valid concern may be raised that the process is taking too long, one must remind themselves that when the provincial law was drafted, much more funding and resources were available to do so for the province, than what was provided to First Nations.  

With regard to the allocation of land, this process must be fair.  Members should not be permitted to unilaterally take lands for which they do not hold a Certificate of Possession for.  A process exists as does documentation regarding same, for the distribution of lands in our First Nation.  To go outside of this process undermines every other member who has submitted to it and the 200 plus members who sit on the housing waiting list.  

There is nothing preventing individuals from starting community gardens within the lands for which they hold a Certificate of Possession for, or for members to organize amongst themselves to create a community garden across the properties of many members within the First Nation.  Certificate of Possession documents are public and published and can be reviewed via First Nation Gazette.  Once again, ask yourselves what would occur if WE all took up land for which we did not hold a Certificate of Possession for within the First Nation.

 Attached to this document:

  • Redacted Correspondence with respect to Cannabis
  • BCR #2018-043 Cannabis Moratorium

Statement passed by Chief &Council on June 10, 2020

Councillor Peter Sewell was in conflict and therefore did not have any part of the discussion with respect to this statement.