Through archival analysis this research examines the Cannabis Act as a case study in the creation of the Government of Canada's Indigenous policy. After nearly a century of prohibition, the legalization of recreational cannabis was a policy reversal with the potential to significantly impact Indigenous communities in terms of economic benefits, public health, and criminal justice. Prior to cannabis legalization the federal government committed to engage with Indigenous peoples and governments, ostensibly to incorporate their perspectives into cannabis policy. However, the eventual Cannabis Act ignored Indigenous interests and cannabis jurisdiction was split between the federal and provincial governments. The jurisdictional exclusion of Indigenous governments was termed legislative genocide by some stakeholders and prompted multiple Indigenous nations to implement their own cannabis regulations, some of which conflict with the Cannabis Act. This analysis relies on purposively sampled documents to create a timeline of Indigenous-Crown consultation. The sample includes witness submissions and testimony provided to the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples' cannabis study, reports produced by the Government of Canada and Indigenous organizations, and resolutions adopted by the Assembly of First Nations. The consultation process is examined using an analytic framework created by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples comprised of four discourse paradigms: assimilationist, citizens plus, rights based, and sovereigntist. While Indigenous participants in cannabis consultation engaged sovereigntist paradigms, government actors consistently adopted assimilationist paradigms. This suggests that despite the federal government's claims of support of Indigenous self-government and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the federal government is not yet willing to accept Indigenous nations as sovereign. Also examined are Indigenous cannabis regulations, categorized in this analysis as Crown-compliant, hybrid, or sovereign. Rights-based arguments made by Indigenous stakeholders for jurisdictional inclusion under domestic and international law are explored, as are the responses of the federal government. The varied approaches to asserting Indigenous jurisdiction over cannabis are discussed within the context of reconciling Indigenous and Crown sovereignties.
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Thesis advisor: Palys, Ted
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