June 6, 2020

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Pallister should butt out of our affairs: Swan Lake chief

Premier Brian Pallister wants to ban smoking in about 30 First Nations VLT lounges. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Premier Brian Pallister wants to ban smoking in about 30 First Nations VLT lounges. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Brian Pallister should butt out of Indigenous affairs, Swan Lake First Nation Chief Francine Meeches said after the premier announced a plan to ban smoking in First Nations' VLT lounges.

Pallister said Wednesday he wants to put a stop to smoking in approximately 30 First Nations VLT lounges, but he prefers to do it through consultation rather than legislation.

Pallister cited health concerns as the reason behind his directive to Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton to prohibit smoking in all gaming facilities in Manitoba.

Chief Meeches rejected Pallister’s reasoning.

"If he was concerned about the health of our people, he will do something about the health system in Manitoba," she said Thursday.

"All our money comes from Health Canada," she said. "Has he ever offered to try and help us in our health system? No, he hasn't."

Swan Lake First Nation has a VLT gaming facility on its main reserve, which is located about 165 km southwest of Winnipeg.

Pallister said he's already raised the smoking issue with regional chiefs in Manitoba.

"I'm not proposing to act unilaterally. I want to be very clear on that," he told reporters.

But Meeches said she has never heard of Pallister’s plan.

"Nobody has ever brought this up. So, if he had had that discussion before, maybe it was (with) one or two (chiefs)," she said.

"If he's saying he spoke to chiefs, why (doesn’t) he tell me what chiefs he spoke to?"

She accused Pallister of trying to disrupt Indigenous people all the time. "(Pallister is) trying to nitpick at different groups — minority groups," she said. "He needs to focus on more important things in Manitoba."

She noted Swan Lake First Nation is a Treaty One First Nation.

"We are federally run, federally funded," she said. "He needs to keep his nose out of our business."

city.desk@freepress.mb.ca

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