Shxwha:y First Nation faces baffling Provincial hurdle on the path to economic self-determination
CHILLIWACK, BC, Oct. 16, 2020 – Shxwha:y Chief and Council invite political leaders to put words into action on the path to reconciliation by facilitating meaningful Indigenous participation in the growth of the British Columbia cannabis industry, a promise the current government has thus far failed to live up to.
Shxwha:y First Nation expects to receive imminent authorization by Health Canada to operate a 30,000 sq. ft. cultivation and processing facility located on Shxwha:y reserve lands. To Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y First Nation, the facility is more than a source of pride – it represents the untapped potential and opportunity to achieve a compelling vision – to share agency and profit with other First Nations communities through meaningful partnerships.
“We owe it to our people, to our future generations; we don’t want to rely on governments for funding and instead want the freedom to use our lands to chart out our economic future,” stated Chief Gladstone.
This unique social enterprise model involves long-term registered lease agreements with First Nations communities across British Columbia to build new retail cannabis locations. Each First Nation receives 51% of the profits earned through retail operations which are located on reserves and staffed by the partner Nation’s community members.
“We’ve come this far through sheer conviction. We didn’t have the deep pockets others have; no corporate backing,” said Chief Robert Gladstone. “We were adamant we would not allow another economic opportunity to pass us by.”
This opportunity for economic growth and self-determination faces one important hurdle: the Government of British Columbia’s Section 119 agreement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Agreement Act (CCLA). While the process of securing a license under the federal government’s Health Canada requirements was challenging, Shxwha:y First Nation acknowledges the federal government’s support and cooperation in advancing the project towards its anticipated approval.
Unfortunately, the experience with the Province of British Columbia and the pursuit of a Section 119 agreement has been burdensome and baffling.
As British Columbia’s NDP government seeks re-election on a platform of equity, inclusion and commitment to reconciliation, Shxwha:y and their partners have experienced only delays and exclusion from an industry they were assured would include space for them. Despite months of efforts culminating in a comprehensive submission for consideration under the CCLA in August of 2020, they have yet to receive a firm commitment from the Ministry of Public Safety to resolve the stalemate and move forward.
“We have been transparent with provincial officials throughout our engagement, asking for information on mandate and vision to better understand the provincial position, but to no avail,” stressed Gladstone. “There is a lack of willingness to facilitate Indigenous success in cannabis distribution and we will not be pushed out of an industry where we have earned our space.”
Shxwa:y’s approach presents a solution to a national issue where the lack of consultation with Indigenous communities in the passage of the Cannabis Act has limited communities to operate only within their own reserves while provincial regulators prevent them from participating in the national market.
Chief Gladstone concluded: “On behalf of Shxwa:y’ First Nation, Cheam First Nation, Soowahlie First Nation and Sq’ewlets First Nation, I formally invite Honourable Horgan to fulfill his commitments and engage with us as an equal partner by joining our virtual assembly of Chiefs on November 10th. Together, we can cross this hurdle and continue on the path to reconciliation.”
For further information: Media Contact: Tatianna Ducklow, Media Consultant, 587.897.7430, [email protected]