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Indigenous activists say they have historical right to sell, trade cannabis

The 10 are facing cannabis-related charges laid from 2019 to 2021 in a case being heard in Sudbury

From The Sudbury Star by Harold Carmichael January 17 2024

Ten Indigenous Ontarians – including a man from the Wahnapitae First Nation in the Sudbury area – are expected to argue in a Sudbury courtroom they have a right to sell and trade cannabis.

The 10 are facing cannabis-related charges laid from 2019 to 2021.

At issue is their historical right to use and trade cannabis. The charges were laid in the early years of cannabis legalization in Canada.

The 10 accused include Derek Roque, co-owner of Creator’s Choice Cannabis on the Wahnapitae First Nation, David Brennan of Parry Sound, Harley Hill, Chadwick McGregor, Michael Nolan and Sarah McQuabbie.

All 10 are expected to argue they are descendants of a long-forgotten First Nation called Amikwa – or The Beaver People.

The Amikwa, however, are not recognized by the federal government or other area First Nation communities, has never signed a treaty or ceded their territory to the federal government, but there is now a move underway to recreate the historic community.

Michael Swinwood of Ottawa is representing the accused.

At the start of the trial Monday, all 10 pleaded not guilty to possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of selling and possession of Canadian currency not exceeding $5,000 under the Cannabis Act.

All 10 are Indigenous and nine of them owned or worked at cannabis operations in First Nation communities across Ontario without having the required licences or approval from their chiefs and councils.

In the case of Roque, the Ontario Provincial Police and Anishinabek Police Service raided Creator’s Choice on Jan. 3, 2019.

He is facing 11 charges laid in the raid, including obstructing a police officer, assaulting a police officer and breach of recognizance. Those charges are being dealt with in the Ontario Court of Justice and are not part of the trial involving the 10 defendants.

“We don’t need a licence to do (sell cannabis),” Wahnapitae First Nation band councillor Ted Roque told reporters at a protest supporting Roque outside the Sudbury Courthouse on Sept. 20, 2019.

“It is the Indigenous right to be economically self-sustaining … We don’t need to get permission from the province of Ontario to do this.”

On Wednesday, Superior Court Justice Patrick Boucher denied the Nation of the Amikwa Nipissing Allies (NANA) – a long-forgotten First Nation community in Ontario – intervenor status in the case.

Justice Boucher noted the Nation of the Amikwa Nipissing Allies had indicated it wanted to call three witnesses. However, the lawyer for the 10 defendants had already told the court he intends to two of the three witnesses.

Boucher ruled that a third proposed NANA witness was also not needed because one of those two defence witnesses – Amikwa Chief Stacy Amikwabi – was knowledgeable about the ongoing historical research project work being done on the Amikwa people by the third proposed witness.

“I do find that (NANA intervenor) evidence would be no different than what is being presented by the accused,” Boucher said in his ruling dismissing the intervenor status application. “There will not be an evidentiary gap that stands to be filled by the intervenor.”

Boucher also noted that the charges are now before the court following years of case management, case conferences and two summary dismissal applications by the Crown.

The Crown had opposed granting intervenor status to NANA in the case.

The trial continues Thursday.

Amikwa history

According to Wikipedia, the Amikwa were a Native American clan, one of the first recognized by Europeans in the 17th century.

They inhabited the north shore of Lake Huron, opposite the island of Manitoulin, along the shores between Missisagi and French rivers, and along the Spanish River.

The Amikwa were nearly wiped out by disease and wars with the Iroquois and the last of the tribe appears to have merged with the Nipissings or the Ojibwe.

Twitter: @HaroldCarmichae

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