Smoking ban bill a breach of jurisdiction: Manitoba First Nations
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba First Nation communities are speaking out against the province's moves to ban public smoking on reserves.
Public smoking has been banned in Manitoba for years, but those rules don't apply in federal jurisdictions, including First Nation communities.
This week the province introduced Bill 56, which would end the public smoking exemptions for reserves.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said provincial laws and regulations don't apply in First Nation communities.
"We can prescribe to (the provincial laws), there are general laws of application," said Dumas. "But in most cases, there needs to be a conversation and negotiations that need to occur."
Dumas said there was no consultation with First Nation communities prior to the bill being passed.
He said he met with the Minister of Health, Wellness, and Recovery Audrey Gordon last month.
"You'd think that something so significant would have been brought up at that initial meeting, but it wasn't. I think it's very disrespectful and we need to figure out how we move forward," Dumas said.
Dumas believes the province should repeal the legislation.
Rana Bokhari is a Lawyer with the Law Office of Bokhari, Smith and Walker. She said the bill is a jurisdictional issue.
"On First Nations, it is federal jurisdiction, and the province is trying to implement provincial law onto First Nations Reserves basically," said Bokhari. "It's quite a disregard for the law and just disrespectful to First Nation leaders."
NDP leader Wab Kinew said he's personally against smoking in public places, but the government has to respect Indigenous people's rights.
"If this is a policy priority of the provincial government, they should be reaching out and carrying out consultation because this is going to have impacts. There's going to be a public health impact for sure, but there is also going to be an impact on revenues," said Kinew.
In a statement to CTV News, Minster of Health, Wellness, and Recovery, Audrey Gordon said:
"We want to ensure that all of Manitoba, not just sections of it, are provided equitable access to live and work in smoke and vapour-free environments."
"This act will help more communities create smoke and vapour-free environments without having to go through the process of creating new by-laws."
Dumas said if the province absolves itself of its responsibility to consult with First Nations, he'll be forced to take the issue to court.
"We can't allow our jurisdiction to be overstepped, and we won't," he said
The bill would offer exceptions for the ceremonial use of tobacco.
If passed, the bill will apply to military bases in the province as well.