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Canada’s denial of Indigenous access to banking puts entrepreneurs at increased risk of robbery and violence

A spate of four dramatic robberies of ATM machines from Six Nations businesses underlines the risks facing Indigenous entrepreneurs holding cash because they’ve been banned from using Canadian banks.

By Linda Fazio, Six Nations of the Grand River

It seems like we have to take care of ourselves out here. We’ve never asked for help to open and do everything we’ve done in the past 30 years that we’ve been open as Paradise Gardens, a cannabis grow equipment shop in Six Nations. We’ve been open for eight years as a compassion club. Over this time we have done nothing but try to bring medicinal cannabis to Six Nations and to try to fix the medical and addiction problems in the community by offering quality medicine at an affordable price. 

Sadly, some people in our community have no scruples, and think it’s okay to bite the hand that supports them. What will do they do as an encore? Go hit up the Goodwill, or the Salvation Army? I’m not agreeing with them stealing more ATMs from other stores like they did the next day, but they seem to get their courage and experience hitting up the cannabis shops first, because they think we are the most vulnerable thanks to the history of the policing of cannabis on the territory. 

It’s going to take some major event to bring this to a forefront. I spoke to one of the secretaries in the Council building, and while there’s 42 police on the payroll, only four are on duty any given night. Anyone with a good police scanner can stay one step ahead of the cops real easy, and keep hitting more shops. This needs to be fought at a Federal court level, because the US has so much power over the world’s financial system, that because cannabis is illegal federally in the US, the whole world is scared to not follow their rules. 

The legal licensed LPs and dispensaries off the reserve are having the same problems in getting and keeping a bank account, and if they can somehow talk a bank into it, they have to pay a $10,000 fee and three to four times the costs in banking fees that a regular business does. 

By blocking cannabis entrepreneurs from banking, they force us to keep cash in ATMs on the premises, or to bring it home with us. It’s all too easy to target us for theft and armed robbery or home invasion. We need change from the top, because the Canadian financial blockade on Indigenous economy is putting us into a vulnerable situation. They are forcing us to come up with heavy duty security measures that might just get someone hurt, or worse, killed. 

Caption: Linda and Maurice Fazio are co-founders of the Cannabis Rights Coalition.

The Six Nation elected band council’s own Cannabis Commision can’t open a bank account to make their payments. They are band (and supposedly community) approved, and the only way they can pay their bills is with cash or by laundering money through the band council. 

The Royal Bank and the Bank of Montreal – both of which proudly operate on our reserve – should be forced to open bank accounts for cannabis shops, or be kicked off the reserve for discrimination. It’s not just the small time entrepreneurs that they’re going after. The Royal Bank even closed down GRE co-founder Kenny Hill’s personal bank account and GRE’s bank account, just before he passed away. They apparently did this because Kenny owned Redecan, a Licensed Producer through Canada’s system.  

This is racism. They’re enforcing racist and colonial laws upon us when we as First Nations people have a constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty right to run our own shops in accordance with our own customs and conventions. Why do you think the police stopped raiding the cannabis shops in Six Nations? The courts didn’t want to prosecute First Nations people doing business, especially in their community. 

I fought Revenue Canada for 9 years and won. They wanted me to collect their taxes from all customers and to card my people in our own territory. I outright refused to do that, and brought busloads of Native and non-Native protestors from all over Ontario to Ottawa to stand up for our rights. Resistance is the only thing they listen to. 

If it wasn’t for our group that got an injunction, took them to high court on a class action lawsuit, and won using their own constitution against them, the only way we would have been able to get cannabis these days would be from the government’s licensed producers, at $15 to $20 a gram, when we’ve proved we can produce it for 50 cents a gram. We need to do that stuff all over again for the First Nation’s cannabis industry’s banking situation. The Liberal government is so off balance with all their scandals and improprieties, that now is the time to act!

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