A second Indigenous unlicensed cannabis retail store has opened in London, Ontario. Sewatohwat Cannabis recently opened without approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the province’s cannabis regulator.
“The store is operated by sovereign people on sovereign land,” says a sign on the business. “We are exercising our constitutional and inherent rights.”
The first shop, Spirit River Cannabis, is saying the same thing. “We’re exercising our constitutional rights and our treaty rights to fend off economic genocide.”
Canada is no stranger to unlicensed cannabis shops. Before legalization, you couldn’t walk down a street in Toronto or Vancouver without seeing retail establishments offering cannabis for sale.
Police have since cracked down on unlicensed shops, including shutting down businesses on First Nations land.
The hands-off approach has been controversial in the British Columbia interior, to the point that regulated pot shops are taking the province to court.
But in Ontario, the situation is less contentious. That is until First Nations started opening shops in urban locations. Right now, there are only two in London, Ontario. But the precedent has been set.
The Result of Land Acknowledgements?
Once in Canada, people would recite the Lord’s prayer at the beginning of meetings, events, or other gatherings. Although Canada is technically a secular nation, from 1867 to the 1960s, its population was predominately European-decent and Christian.
Eventually, people dropped the Lord’s prayer. And for a while, Canada, indeed, was agnostic and secular. However, the situation began to evolve again in the 21st century. Far-left ideologies originated from Universities and began to spill out into human resource departments and government bureaucracies.
Part of this far-left ideology is that Canada is a neo-colonial state founded on racism and white privilege. And so, at the beginning of meetings, events, or other gatherings, people recite “land acknowledgements.”
In the common parlance of our times, land acknowledgments are a way for non-Indigenous people to recognize the ongoing impact of colonization and to show respect for Indigenous cultures and traditions.
But in reality, it’s an attempt to have their cake and eat it too.
In that sense, land acknowledgments are a substitute for more substantive actions, such as addressing land justice and reconciliation issues. Left-wing ideologues believe that if they acknowledge the Indigenous people used to live here, then they don’t have to give the land back.
It’s a contradiction in terms.
Either the city of London is rightfully Indigenous land. So its residents should be paying rent to the Chippewa Nation at the very least.
Or this is Crown land, conquered by wars and genocide. And therefore, these land acknowledgments are merely propaganda tactics to convince people that all is well and good.
So which is it? Does the land London sit on belong to the colonial Crown or the Chippewa Nation?
One that rightfully demolishes the Crown’s claim while acknowledging the Chippewa Nation. But without violating the property rights of London’s current residents regardless of their ethnic background?
Indigenous Unlicensed Cannabis Stores in Ontario
As of this publication, the owners of both stores have yet to respond to a request for comment. However, the owner of Spirit River Cannabis did speak to CBC earlier this month.
Maurice French is an entrepreneur from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. He said he’s not looking to start a fight, only to push back against “economic genocide.”
French cites London’s land acknowledgement as the raison d’état for operating outside the jurisdiction of the province’s cannabis regulator.
The store has a sign saying the trading post is protected by Sections 25 and 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act.
French’s uncle, adviser, clan chief and Indigenous rights activist Del Riley told CBC, “Our rights come from our nation, and the province of Ontario is not a nation.”
This isn’t the first time French has faced the Crown. In 2018, police raided one of his shops. They charged him under the Cannabis Act with possessing cannabis to sell, which remains illegal unless sanctioned by authorities.
French and his lawyers launched a constitutional challenge. French’s lawyers argued that by raiding the Indigenous cannabis shop, the police denied “the Aboriginal approach to traditional healing and plant medicine.” Which is an Indigenous cultural right under S. 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“We as First Nations have a traditional right to sell our medicines on our territories,” French told CBC.
And while selling cannabis on First Nations reserves is one thing, opening stores in urban centres is another.
The Indigenous Right to Cannabis
Police have no business raiding First Nation cannabis shops. Whether located on actual Reserves or downtown London, Ontario.
From a political standpoint, the state is a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision-making.
A monopolist of ultimate decision-making will cause and provoke social conflict to “settle” the dispute to their advantage.
The state claims that First Nations cannot govern themselves, so they steal their resources. When inevitable conflict ensues, the state uses its judicial system to isolate First Nation communities further while continuing their plundering.
It’s that simple.
From a biological perspective, property rights are an inescapable fact of nature.
All living things must occupy space and consume resources. Given the nature of human evolution, our ability to adapt and transform resources is eminently distinctive from other species. However, this doesn’t negate these territorial claims. We can transfer a territorial claim to another human being through voluntary exchange.
Our ability to peacefully cooperate creates a market that can produce everything from air conditioning to zippers.
The fact that all goods ultimately come from nature-given resources only goes to emphasize this fact. This unique “property market” may set us apart from other species. But it does not change the fundamental aspect of property ownership as a biological mechanism.
An organization – like the state – that disrupts this process by imposing a mandatory confiscation of property is an insult to the territorial claims that are the evolutionary building blocks of human civilization.
Secession is the Way to Go
Canada has negated property rights, which has caused all sorts of environmental damage. The fact that First Nations have laws older than this government proves that secession is a legitimate answer to these problems.
Secession would imply these resources do not belong to the Canadian government. These resources are the private property of the First Nation sovereigns who never voluntarily gave these rights away.
Any debate about sharing the profit of resources you rightfully own is absurd.
If First Nations are genuinely sovereign, a declaration of secession is the only rational route. All individuals – aboriginal or not – cannot continue consenting to this predatory corporate system.
“Canada” is a conceptual entity, literally arbitrary lines on a map. “Canada” is a social fiction from a history indelibly linked to railroad financiers, British bankers and power-hungry politicians. National identity is a civic religion.
You cannot acknowledge that someone else owns your land, but you can live and profit from it without their consent. Just as one cannot be sovereign yet identify with a nation that places the British Crown as the only sovereign.
Private property is not a European Concept.
Private property is not a European concept imposed on First Nations. It is a biological necessity. Consider how the Indigenous fishing system worked before European colonization.
The Maritime provinces and the BC coast have suffered from a tragedy of the commons since European arrival.
But there was a robust system of private property before this. The predictability of salmon runs generated landownership over specific sites, just as weirs and traps belonged to individuals or families.
They could transfer these rights by exchange or gift. West Coast aboriginals owned streams and banks. This, in turn, improved spawning beds and initiated the idea of moving eggs from one site to another, thus maintaining fish populations.
Even among the buffalo herders, property existed. Even though the plains and buffalo were too vast and plentiful to be considered scarce, the wealth that arose from a buffalo carcass introduced scarce goods and thus economized and allocated to private ownership.
Aboriginal property rights are never static. They evolve as needed and become more elaborate as land and resources become scarcer relative to populations. The idea of propertyless aboriginals living in “primitive communism” originated as a European justification for the theft of already owned land.
After over 150 years of central planning through the Indian Act, perhaps it’s time to allow Indigenous people to own what’s rightfully theirs.
And suppose you want to continue to acknowledge stolen land at the beginning of meetings, events, or other gatherings. In that case, it’s time to start thinking through the consequences.
It’s an attempt for the Crown to have their cake and eat it too. Either give the Land Back or make the case that European colonization justifies stolen land.