Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/7/2008 (2843 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Outgoing Portage-Lisgar MP Brian Pallister issued a press release today slagging the nearby Long Plain First Nation for allowing smoking in its VLT lounge and conference centre, and chastising the province for not enforcing the province-wide smoking ban on reserves.That's interesting, I said to myself as I waited for the teachers' pension hearings to begin. This will give me a chance to speak to Pallister, which I have never done before, which says something about him and me. I fired off calls to Pallister, Chief Dennis Meeches and the province for comment and then I realised Pallister had it exactly wrong.The province can't enforce the ban on First Nations. It doesn't apply there and never has, and the courts said so. In a back-and-forth case that ended in March, Manitoba's Court of Appeal reaffirmed the rights of First Nations to be exempt from provincial law. That was, you'll recall, the case of Treherne bar owner Robert Jenkinson who challenged the law as unfair because it applied only to off-reserve bars like his. The court sided with the First Nations, not Mr. Jenkinson.At best Pallister made a silly mistake. At worst, it's a totally disingenuous bit of spin meant to make the province and Long Plain look bad, one that assumes that every reporter will be as dumb as I momentarily was. Pallister even quoted the orignal Clearwater decision that found in Jenkinson's favour, a decision that was criticized by constitutional experts and firmly overturned on appeal.Since it can't legislate, the province is using the backdoor, refusing to renew VLT licenses unless First Nations bars go smoke-free, like Brokenhead's South Beach Casino did. Long Plain's license isn't up yet, according to the province.Back in 2006, Prentice was asked about a national ban that would apply fairly to everyone, including First Nations, and he said he didn't support one. "I don't think it's appropriate for the federal government to pass a piece of legislation that applies to all First Nations on this issue," he told The Sun.