First Nation Jurisdiction on Cannabis will Improve the Wealth and Health of our Nations

First Nations must act now – together -- to capitalize on this new green economy that will continue to grow, and has the potential to generate prosperity for decades and generations to come.

Isadore Day

Just over six months ago, Canada legalized cannabis and opened the door to enormous opportunities for those First Nation communities and entrepreneurs who want to get in on the ground floor of a new green economy. The fact that federal government had done little or no consultation with First Nations has become a blessing in disguise. The door is wide open for First Nation control of cannabis.

We have already seen that both Canada and the provinces have had difficulty with the major Licenced Producers, who have not been able to meet the demand. Some of these producers have tried to cut corners by growing in facilities that have not been licenced. Others have produced inferior cannabis products.

Can our communities control the licensing, cultivation, and sale of cannabis and hemp? Yes. Will our community members benefit from long-term employment in the cannabis industry? Yes. First Nations can do a better job of protecting their community members, while generating wealth and improving health through a natural, green industry.

We have already seen First Nation dispensaries open across the country. Every single one appears to be doing a booming business by selling safe, quality products, mostly to mainstream consumers. More importantly, First Nation cannabis retailers have established a reliable national supply chain of products that is far superior to that of the Licenced Producers.

The challenge that First Nations now face is to ensure that we will be able to cultivate, process, and retail cannabis that is entirely legal and legitimate in the eyes of the federal and provincial governments. From a policy perspective, Bimaadzwin has been involved since Day One to help make this a reality. By keeping the door open to government approval, we can establish our own stream of wealth that will transform our economies.

At the end of the day, First Nation involvement in the cannabis industry is all about our communities. Unlike the tobacco industry where only a few become rich, we now have the opportunity to spread the wealth, which will improve the health and well-being of our communities.

In the coming months, those First Nations who want to become involved in the industry must work together based upon sovereignty and jurisdiction. We must engage with the federal and provincial governments to ensure harmonization with mainstream Canada. In fact, we must be able to prove that First Nation cannabis products are equal or superior to those approved by Health Canada.

First Nations must act now – together — to capitalize on this new green economy that will continue to grow, and has the potential to generate prosperity for decades and generations to come.

For more information, contact Bryan Hendry, Director of Marketing and Communications, 613-863-1764 or bhendry@bimaadzwin.ca

#RedDressDay

#MMIWG #RedDressDay #MMIWG2S

Today is Red Dress Day – signifying the honour and prayers for lost and stolen sisters and their safe return and peace, in cases where their lives have been taken.
Angela Trudeau displayed this dress outside of our residence in Sault Ste Marie. We live on a busy street where people will not only see beauty, they will wonder why? If they don’t already know about this important social justice movement in our Indigenous community and in Our Nations, they should. 
 
We at Bimaadzwin express our appreciation, support and gratitude to all the families, communities, allies, advocates and activists who are working to heal and bring awareness and justice for Indigenous women, girls and two spirited people.
 
The video below is a DJ set shared by Boogey the Beat in 2014 in honour of MMIWG. Sadly, it remains relevant today.

Kashechewan – Remote, and Not Removed From Danger

Originally published in 

It’s time to move Kashechewan

Yesterday, Chief Leo Friday and 250 community members rallied on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest and raise awareness over the fact that Kashechewan has been evacuated every spring over the past 17 years due to flooding of the Albany River on James Bay.

These desperate people are members of the Cree Nation, but they have been treated like second class citizens by the Nation of Canada and the Province of Ontario.

As Chief Friday said in an April 29th open letter, his community was physically located to a flood plain by the federal government back in the 1950s. Ever since, this “out of sight, out of mind” community has suffered unspeakable duress and despair that has spawned a cycle of suicide crises. Everyone, from children to elders, must be evacuated to southern towns and cities, living in motels for up to two months at a time.

“For decades, our leadership has sought government assistance to relocate the community to higher ground farther upstream to avoid the devastating flooding. Over two years ago, on March 31, 2017, we even signed a framework agreement with Canada and Ontario to relocate our community,” said Chief Friday in his letter.

A framework agreement. This is the enduring problem. Ever since the Treaties were signed; since Canada became a Confederation; and since the 1876 colonial Indian Act, First Nations have been treated like wards of the state. Our lives are regulated by faceless, indifferent bureaucrats, by meaningless MoUs and agreements. Our hopes are raised and dashed by a parade of Ministers from varying political parties.

The enduring problem is that First Nations are not treated as equals in this country, in this land that we promised to share with the newcomers. We are not Nations. We have no Nationhood. We have been reduced to a scattering of Indian Act bands – far too many bands rely upon government handouts to survive.

In fact, our own organizations rely upon government funding to survive. We have become lines in a budget, funding in a budget cycle that may be reduced depending upon the federal or provincial deficit of the day. Our leaders have been reduced, as Elder John Thunder once stated, to “a pack of dogs begging at the government table.”

To put things into historic perspective, the current Minister of Indigenous Services is Seamus O’Regan, a proud Newfoundlander, who promotes his province’s accomplishments on Twitter at least several times a week. As well he should. The latest Minister in charge of Canada’s Indians comes from a province that was the last to join Confederation in 1949, just 70 years ago.

Back then, Newfoundland was part of the British Commonwealth. However, by the late 1940s, Britain was not pleased with the lack of wealth being generated by Newfoundland. Indeed, a great number of Newfoundlanders were living in grinding poverty. It was to time cut to the colonial ties.

Canada was very willing to bring Newfoundland into the federal family.

Since the 1950s, during the same span of time that Kashechewan began experiencing floods and despair due to relocation, Newfoundland gradually became more prosperous At one point, due to offshore oil, Newfoundland became a “have” province and did not have to rely upon multi-billion dollar transfers from Ottawa.

Newfoundland and Labrador, their people, and their culture are considered valued contributors to Canada’s economy and identity.

In contrast, First Nations, the original “partners” with Canada, are still seeking that equality that comes with being members of Confederation. First Nations are still seeking that elusive Nationhood that will allow us to become valued members and contributors to Canada.

Until we are able to self-govern, until we are able to receive reliable transfer payments, First Nations will continue to be perpetual victims.

We will continue to have crises in Kashechewan, Cat Lake, Grassy Narrows, Pikangikum, and dozens of more communities across the country.

It’s time to stand up. Honour our Ancestors who signed the Treaties.

Honour the future of our children. It’s time to claim our Nationhood.

Earth Day 2019 – Protecting the Next Generation

(Serpent River First Nation, April 22, 2019) The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Protecting Our Species.” We are in a time which we all have an awareness that climate change and the impacts of global warming are definitely real. This sense becomes even more acute when we recognize the inevitable change and unavoidable impacts that our children and their children will inherit.

Protecting our planet is most certainly something that we must get correct when we as parents, teachers, Elders, knowledge keepers, industry leaders, policy makers and experts explain the issue of Climate Change. So let’s begin with what we know about the theme of this year’s Earth Day theme. First some history. On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the North American continent, and around the world, smog was becoming deadly, and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. That was 49 years ago – thus far minimal progress has been made, or we wouldn’t be swimming in peril and global anxiety.

The Earth Day Networks is an important initiative that is recognized as the world’s largest movement focused on the realities and possible solutions to pushing back against the impacts of climate change. On their website, in support of this year’s theme you will find a protection list of 14 species: bees, giraffes, coral reefs, whales, elephants, insects, trees, plants, birds, fish, sharks, crustaceans, sea turtles and great apes. https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/

The Earth is still humanity’s only home in all the Universe, and the only world that we know of that is capable of supporting human beings. Today, Earth Day, it’s more vital than ever to appreciate it; meaning, we need to get it right now.

What about this year’s theme? Well, in one way it is an excellent effort to help focus on some critical measure that must be made to protect the planet. It also has me thinking about two things – the omission of human beings on the species list and the use of the word “our” in the theme: Protecting Our Species. If we are going to have an impact on the enormity of climate change, we must be prepared as a global community to challenge our perspective about where we fit in on the circle of endangered species and we must be prepared to challenge the views that are perpetuated by language that places a subtle sense of superiority of humans over other life forces.

Indigenous Peoples perspectives may have some validity to this perspective. This year, for example, Turtle Island News, has issued an Earth Day edition which has references, stories, scheduled events, and links to the issues around climate change – http://theturtleislandnews.com/index.php/all-news/.

It is well known; we’ve long been at a climate change crossroads for some time. The harmonious world that our ancestors have known even before European contact on Turtle Island, was also a world in which they prophesied that survival depended on the way we would make change. These references conveyed by indigenous knowledge keepers have common threads in changing our practices, by making change in our hearts and making a deliberate shift in our minds.

The most important shift in our paradigm is not just about the earth, but about one another. Nations, regions, communities, families and our fellow brothers and sisters; it’s time for moving beyond destructive relationships that only create strife and inequity among the human species.

Survival depends on all life being respected to the highest degree and care for the earth in a manner that a newborn loves their mother – revering, loving and respecting.

From my family to yours – let’s make Earth Day every day and let us never lose sight of the importance of caring for all life; teaching the next generation that life will hand back the balance of how we as humans treat the gift of life that has freely been given to us.

Bimaadzwin’s goal is Advancing Nationhood and Sovereignty by focusing on Land, People and Prosperity.

An Indigenous Perspective – April 20th Growth and Prosperity

 
Today is a well-known annual check-point for cannabis activists, industry players  and, it’s a festival for those who want to know what the buzz is with 4-20. While the origins of this annual cannabis celebration is disputed, one thing is clear, many people across the country are celebrating this green leafy plant, making April 20tha day of significance.
 
 Let’s consider for a moment, a connecting historical conversation from the Indigenous perspective here in what is now referred to as Canada; right back to the early colonial expeditions that landed explorers on to the eastern shores that were seen as unfit and undesirable.
 
On this very same day — April 20 — in 1534, French explorerJacques Cartier set off from Saint-Malo with 2 ships and 61 men. Favoured by “good weather,” he crossed the Atlantic in 20 days.“I did not see one cart-load of earth,” it was “the land God gave to Cain.” On June 15, he steered “towards the south” and entered unexplored regions. He went along the west coast of Newfoundland, distributing French names, and reached what is now called Cabot Strait, but he did not perceive that it was a navigable channel and turned westward.
 
This being the “new world” for early settlers, it was seen as “terra nullius”, empty land that had no human lives, where the Indigenous were seen as savage and without a soul – it was a sign of how visiting colonizers would conduct themselves in subsequent centuries; all leading us to April 20th2019.
 
Today Canada’s legislative agenda and policies are fraught with an insidious racist narrative and modern foundation of colonial arrogance that still does not respect Indigenous Nationhood. All this to say that cannabis laws in Canada are not anywhere near built on mutual interest, considering the rights, jurisdiction and economic interests of First Nations who wish to exercise their inherent and treaty rights separate and autonomous from that of federalist influence.
 
Now that we have the historical context set out, I note that Indigenous Peoples have a 4-20 perspective on cannabis that deserves attention. Our laws, economic rights, trade practices, social perspectives, and responsibilities are virtually unrecognized by the federal government in this country; at least without struggle and assertion. 
 
You see, all of these rights of Nationhood are founded in Sovereignty that has never been relinquished, given away, nor were we conquered by war. As a matter of fact, our warriors were, and continue to be, allies in wartime and peacekeeping duties. The point here is this – Canadians still benefit from the strength and defense obligations of First Nations as Nationhood partners.
 
When we look across the country, we see many hard-fought assertions to participate in Canada’s cannabis industry – but it’s not an easy, cut and dried task to unpack where First Nations stand in today’s industry.  The mishmash of views and approaches to First Nation jurisdictional issues are perceived by Canada is a result of the neglect of not only Canada and the province, but due to the political paralysis of some of our own First Nation leaders on the issue – but that another story for another day.
 
Without getting too far into the weeds – we know that there are three central concerns from Indigenous Peoples regarding Canada’s laws on cannabis:
 
First, respecting the Nationhood rights of Indigenous communities on cannabis means a formal recognition of First Nation industry interests. 
 
Secondly, consultation laws that Canada is bound to, simply were not respected in the accelerated manner that the federal government advanced the legislative agenda. 
 
Finally, Canada’s claims to reconciliation – at least from the economic perspective, are clearly of no significant consequence.
 
First Nations today that wish to assert their interests in this industry are faced with persecution and labelling of being a grey market, or as having ties with a black market. It is being suggested that what First Nations are developing, despite colonial incursion on their cannabis rights, is the Red Market.
 
Intrigue has been sparked by the determination in approach by Indigenous entrepreneurs, and the impact that First Nations who are not prepared to allow a colonial narrative to be perpetuated are having on the industry . You will also notice, if you look closely, that First Nation cannabis entrepreneurs who are succeeding, are well empowered with expertise, innovative ideas, investment capacity and are sought by non-Indigenous investors because of the edge that Indigenous Nationhood rightfully maintains. Taxation, law-making authority, land, and an Indigenous worldview goes a long way in an industry that is based on a product that is living, comes from the land, and requires organic intelligence.
 
First Nation cannabis is going to flourish – not because colonial laws dictate, but because First Nations are not going to be dictated to by-laws that did not initially consider Indigenous interest.
 
So on this annual commemoration of cannabis culture, remember that it was JacquesCartier’s failing as he set out on April 20, 1534 to find new lands to exploit, to not anticipate a People with pride, dignity, drive, determination, and ability.A People with all those necessary attributes in the business acumen that we are seeing in First Nation cannabis business leaders who are rightfully challenging Canada’s laws today.
 
Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini
CEO Bimaadzwin

Universal Healthcare Coverage for All means Indigenous Wellbeing must be established as a High Priority

World Health Day 2019 is observed worldwide on 7th of April. It is also a day that should remind Canadians that the health care system in Canada continues to be a racialized system that is evidenced in the poor health outcomes of First Nations as opposed to the country’s non-indigenous population.

“The health conditions generally in First Nation communities do not represent equitable health with the rest of Canadians. In fact, there has been a lack of follow-through on Reconciliation as a catalyst to health partnerships,” said Isadore Day, CEO of Bimaadzwin and former Chair of the Chiefs Committee on Health at the Assembly of First Nations.  “This lack of commitment is glaring and is proving to show through in the federal government’s poor funding of critical issues like responding to suicides in First Nations. 

“This is why we at Bimaadzwin are advocates for the World Health Organization’s efforts to raise global awareness on health equity issues such as the importance of health and wellness, and equal access to health care professionals and facilities.” 

“Canada’s 2019 Budget is not indicative of a solutions-based approach toward issues of mental health and addictions – which is unsettling, to say the least,” said Day. “The multi-generational impacts of colonialism, residential schools and a grossly underfunded indigenous healthcare system has certainly exasperated the health conditions of the Indigenous community, only leaving one obvious solution – adequate funding. This flies in the face of what World Health Day represents this year.”

Theme of World Health Day 2019

Just like 2018, the theme of World Health Day 2019 is Universal health coverage, according to the World Health Organisation. WHO sees its key aim to ensure that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community. WHO chose “Universal Health Coverage” as the theme for World Health Day 2019. Steps are being taken to achieve Universal health coverage for everyone, everywhere and the slogan is “Health for All”.

Bimaadzwin and our team aim to work with First Nation communities to advance their Nationhood objectives in all sectors, including health governance and community planning. Contact us for information and how to get started on making First Nation Health Transformation a reality.

For more information you can reach Bryan Hendry at: bhendry@bimaadzwin.ca or 613-863-1764

Sovereignty, Indigenous partnerships, licencing were main themes of 2nd National Indigenous Cannabis and Hemp Conference (NICHC) held this week in Ottawa

(Ottawa, February 22, 2019) For the first time ever, two federal ministers spoke at a cannabis conference – Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Border Securities Minister Bill Blair, who is in charge of Canada’s Cannabis Act. Both Ministers made encouraging statements yesterday on the need to further include Indigenous peoples in the hemp and cannabis industry.

“We are supporting Indigenous communities who want to have a role in the cannabis landscape,” said Minister Petipas Taylor, who pointed out that Canada’s legalization and regulation of cannabis presents an historic opportunity to do things better. “Our government respects Indigenous peoples needs, desires and perspectives.”

Minister Blair pointed out that Indigenous Services Canada has recently modernized its economic development policies in order to address participation in the cannabis industry. “Our government recognizes the important link between economic development and improved outcomes in health and social development. The Cannabis Act provides an open and fair licencing process.”

When asked by a delegate if the government would respect the Algonquin sovereign right to produce and sell cannabis in the territory that includes Ottawa, Minister Blair replied: “We acknowledge and respect the jurisdiction of First Nations. There is an important nation to nation discussion on how both of our jurisdictions are recognized, especially in the health and safety of our peoples.”

Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini, CEO of Bimaadzwin, who chaired the conference, said there is a multi-billion-dollar potential for partnerships among the 300 delegates, exhibitors and fledgling Indigenous companies/retailers who were present. “That mainstream cannabis train is going to keep on going. Let’s jump on our own track, under our own steam. At the same time, we need to build trust with governments and the Canadian public. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all our Nations to partner and participate in this growing industry.”

Kahnawake Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton stressed that his community is developing its own cannabis law in order to ensure public health and safety and access to a population of three million in the Montreal area. “We are already a major contributor to the economy. We employ a lot of people. We need to educate the provincial and federal governments on what we do. We’re going to take advantage of our location. If cannabis is one product that’s going to be in demand, then let’s do it.”

Opaskwayak Cree Nation Onekanew Christian Sinclair brought his remote Manitoba community out of debt by investing and partnering in cannabis production and retail companies in Canada and California. “Because of the current cannabis shortage for years to come, this is a golden opportunity for all First Nations to get into the game.”

Bimaadzwin continues to work towards clarifying and setting out challenging policy discussions. These challenges are being identified by working with Indigenous cannabis entrepreneurs, communities, and leaders within First Nation, federal, and provincial jurisdictions in regard to participation in the hemp and cannabis economy.

For more information, please contact:

Bryan Hendry, Director of Marketing and Communications, bhendry@bimaadzwin.ca or 613-863-1764

All photos by Fred Cattroll