October 2nd 2006. Paul Samyn's October 1 column attempting to connect two
very different issues -- combating the drastic consequences of the mis-use
of tobacco and the appeal against a court order which would illegally impose
provincial jurisdiction on reserves -- is an essay based on unfortunate,
uninformed, and biased views.
As a national reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, we expect him and his
newspaper to keep us all informed about what is happening in Ottawa. By
advancing his confused diatribe, he puts into question his ability to report
objectively on events which have great impact on the lives of First Nations
people in Manitoba.
Paul's concluding logic states that if First Nations would pass smoking bans
on reserves, we will be able to get the Harper government to reinstate the
Kelowna accord. We ask Paul the same question he asks us in his essay:
Let's think more clearly, Paul. Human beings -- First Nations and
otherwise -- do not stop smoking in their homes and daily lives because
there is a smoking ban. Manitoba doesn't have such a smoking ban for its
citizens, why should we have one for ours?
You are confusing a jurisdiction question with a health issue. If Canada
were really serious about First Nation health, it would outlaw smoking
altogether. Oh, wait, that would eliminate some heavy duty taxes, what am I
thinking. Nothing in there about banning alcohol consumption is there, it
kills Indians too or maybe mouldy housing?
Point two: smoking bans are designed not to cut down on smoking, but rather
to ensure that non-smokers are able to enjoy public environments without
having to endure second-hand smoke.
Point three: addiction to tobacco is made more probable by the addition of
certain chemicals into commercial tobacco. As a result, addiction to smoking
is one of the most difficult addictions to get under control. Rehabilitation
is done by education, counselling, treatment, programs.
Isn't spending modest funding on these efforts to reduce the horrendous
medical costs of tobacco abuse a worthwhile investment? Did we not pay the
federal taxes on what we smoke, so why are you complaining when we get our
own money back? Surely you do not think that the government is likely to
restore this funding if we would allow the province to enforce smoking bans
on reserves -- more ridiculous logic, right? C'mon, Paul -- support us
having $11-million across Canada restored to enhance our own efforts and
programs to deal with tobacco addictions.
We're accused of being angry with the province for trying to enforce its
smoking ban on reserves. Bad research, Paul. Remember that it was the
Province of Manitoba itself which argued against enforcing its smoking bans
on reserves. It did so in the provincial court, in the appeal to Queen's
Bench, and will be doing so again in the Manitoba Court of Appeal. We are
intervening to ensure our point of view is heard, but please note, Paul,
that it is the Province making the appeal, not First Nations. Just a small
fact to remember.
Finally, we want to be direct about why we are against the provincial law
being applied on reserve. It has nothing to do with smoking bans at all. It
has everything to do with the fact that we have a Treaty relationship
entered into with the Crown which set aside reserves for our exclusive use
and benefit. We have a Constitution in Canada which supports that
relationship by making Indians and lands reserved for the Indians the
exclusive domain of the federal government, not provincial. It is the law,
Paul! As a result, the Province has no jurisdiction on our reserves -- and
neither does it use your tax dollars, Paul, to provide our reserves with
If your logic is meritorious, consider the Province passing "The Paul Samyn
Law", which makes it mandatory and subject to penalty for violation that
your family eats healthy food, cleans up regularly, otherwise regulates your
lives, and of course not allows anyone to smoke in your house -- all for
your own benefit, of course. Would you object to such an imposition of
jurisdiction into your home? Of course you would -- and should, even though
everything you now must do by law you would want to do anyhow. Why complain,
then, because we are doing the same thing?
We view the province enforcing its jurisdiction in our reserved territories
as a home invasion, nothing less. When the province and feds get serious and
eliminate all alcohol and tobacco consumption, your logic would be a little
more sensible, for now, I won't holding my breath waiting for them to cut
off their own taxes on alcohol and tobacco. We ask you to support us in
ensuring Canadian law respects our rights and treaties. Treaties which gave
the immigrants a land base where they can enforce their laws as they see fit
but also respect our right to do the same in our reserved territories. That
is all this is about. We look forward to the Free Press and Paul Samyn
providing us with balanced objective news on national affairs.
Chief Terrance Nelson
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