Algonquin senator wants Ottawa to mandate warnings labels on alcohol products

Sen. Patrick Brazeau says he has high hopes for a bill he introduced last November to add mandatory warning labels on all alcohol products sold in Canada.

Bill S-254 is currently making its way through the Senate.

Brazeau, who is from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg north of Ottawa, will be celebrating three years of sobriety this March, said he did his own research and found that earlier studies raised alarm bells about the connections between alcohol and cancers that few consumers know about.

“Alcohol has been labeled a class one carcinogen since 1988, so a class one carcinogen just like tobacco and asbestos, yet in Canada alcohol is the only product where there are no warning labels or there’s no information as to what is in the cans or the bottles,” he told Nation to Nation host, Annette Francis.

Brazeau isn’t the only one who has tried to get warning labels legislated.  In 2005, Liberal MP Paul Szabo proposed a private members bill that failed to pass.  At the time, the argument was that labels were ineffective.

Although Bill S-254 is in the early stages, Brazeau said he’s in for the long run.

“I believe you know for the betterment and for health reasons for all Canadians, it should be there, should be clear warning signs that the consumption of alcohol can cause cancer,” he said.

According to Brazeau, it was his own personal struggles with alcohol abuse that lead him to that research and the decision to follow through with the bill.

Since becoming a senator in 2009, his personal battles were documented over the years. He was candid about his suicide attempts on Nation to Nation.  He said it’s his own personal experiences that drive him to push to better mental health and suicide prevention programs.

“You know these are the types of barriers that need to be broken down because you know, there are too many of our people suffering and you know it’s time that it’s time that we start doing something about it collectively and you know I’m just a little dot on the wall and but I’m just trying to do what I can.”

Ripping up tax agreements has soured relations with New Brunswick, say Wolastoqey First Nations

Chief Allan Polchies Jr. of St. Mary’s First Nation told Nation to Nation that the premier of New Brunswick, Blaine Higgs, wants to replace a tax sharing agreement with a more government controlled system. In return for collecting provincial taxes from on-reserve businesses, five per cent of that revenue was sent back to the First Nation to spend as it saw fit. Meanwhile, New Brunswick kept the remaining 95 per cent.

“Premier Higgs wants to replace these agreements with the system where First Nations come to the government with the specific funding request and the provincial government will decide is the request to get any funding,” said Polchies.

The agreement, which has been in place since the 1990s, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 31. It will impact six Wolastoqey Nations. The money collected helps to address social issues and build on-reserve housing.

Polchies said it will be a huge loss.

“With this tax agreement you know, we were able to build anywhere from 10 to 20 homes a year you know and that’s a lot of homes that’s you know given a lot of families,” he said.

Earlier this month Higgs was quoted as saying the tax agreements give First Nations “an unfair advantage,” but Polchies disagrees.

“We’ve been fair for a number of years by upholding the agreements that the government of the day has put into place. And, you know, 25 per cent of my workforce is not Indigenous. So we take 25 per cent of the folks here in the Fredericton area and we take them off the social system you know. We’re giving them livelihoods.”

Polchies said his community is already working on making up for the shortfall through taxing cigarettes and gas sold on reserve. But admits there will be fiscal pain.

“We’ve got to be creative on being able to sustain the services around health, child care, and, of course, the big item is mental health in our community.”

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