Conflict over fee for Indigenous cannabis retailers could end up in court: Long Plain chief
Published Thursday, December 20, 2018 6:07PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, December 20, 2018 6:58PM CST
A flap over a provincial cannabis fee is likely on the horizon between the premier and Indigenous leaders.
"Opinions from our lawyer is that it could possibly -- an illegal tax," said Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches.
Two pot stores are operating on Long Plain land now.
The province is set to charge a 6 per cent social responsibility fee for all marijuana retailers. Meeches says that fee may violate a federal law which permits tax exemptions on First Nations.
"Right now we're taking a hard look at this, whether or not it’s an infringement on our treaty taxation rights," said Meeches.
Premier Brian Pallister indicates his government is not making any exceptions when it comes to the fee.
"Everybody's got a social responsibility, it distributes cannabis in our province," said Pallister.
If this ends up in a legal battle, it could come down to an argument over language.
Lawyer Harold Cochrane specializes in Indigenous law.
"The Indian Act makes personal property of an Indian purchased on reserve exempt from taxation,” said Cochrane.
Cochrane says the deciding factor could be a court's interpretation -- is this a fee, or is it simply a tax with another name.
"I would imagine the province would argue that it’s not a tax, that it's a fee, but ultimately that is what the issue will come down to,” said Cochrane.
It appears this could be heading to court.
Meeches says his community may have to challenge the premier.
"I think that's where it will probably end up, I think we'll end up going down that road and saying okay well I think the Premier has overstepped his boundary," said Meeches.
Pallister appears confident the social fee for all will hold up in court.
"Absolutely,” he said. “Because it will."