By Mike Anderson

After his Indigenous pot shop on High Street was raided by York Regional Police earlier this month, Jared Big Canoe says he’s looking forward to his day in court.

Big Canoe wants the charges dropped and the cannabis and cash seized by police returned.

But more importantly, he hopes to set a legal precedent, asserting his right as an Indigenous person to sell cannabis off-reserve without a provincial license.

“I need to prove we have the right to be here. It’s as simple as that. There is no licensing, no following the rules that they impose on you. It has to be nation to nation,” Big Canoe said.

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“It’s called the Two Row Wampum. My nation’s boat travels this way, and Canada’s boat goes another way. We don’t interfere with each other’s paths. That’s the treaty that we made together.”

Big Canoe’s court date is April 10, 2024, in Newmarket.

However, he’s concerned that his case might be delayed, making it harder for him to stay in business.

“They know I have a right, but if they drag it out, they can make it so I can’t afford to keep fighting it,” he said.

Big Canoe is also upset about being branded a criminal.

“I’m here selling plant medicine, and I don’t see it as wrong. But they’re coming here and making everyone in the community look at me like I’m a criminal,” he said.

“What I want is for my daughter’s generation and all her cousins not to feel like they’re in the middle of a crime thing.”

Big Canoe, who has a lawyer, has started a GoFundMe page to help with his legal costs, which he estimates could be as high as $60K.

According to Big Canoe, nine police officers entered his shop on Thursday, March 6, around 5:30 p.m., as he was preparing to close for the day.

“A very big crew of police came,” Big Canoe said. “It was a show of force.”

YRP presented a search warrant and laid two charges under the Cannabis Act: Possession for the Purpose of Distribution of Cannabis and Distribution of Illicit Cannabis.

According to the Cannabis Act (2017), If found guilty, Big Canoe could face two years in jail, or a $250K fine, or both.

YRP also seized $8,000 in cannabis and $2,000 in cash as evidence.

While Big Canoe waits for his day in court, he has decided to keep his shop open and focus on selling Indigenous products. He also wants to provide seminars on Indigenous practices, like smudging and drumming.

“You can come and see a healer, a medicine person. You can come to a sweat lodge ceremony, have a naming ceremony, or learn about smudging,” said Big Canoe, who believes many people can benefit from Indigenous practices.

“People are dealing with mental health issues, dealing with the everyday stresses of life, looking for a new way to grow, or feeling like their lives have become stagnant. They need some push forward with new energy,” he said.

“Every time I’ve ever seen a healer or a medicine person, it has helped me to be more sure of my path in life.”

If you would like to donate to Big Canoe’s legal fund, visit www.gofundme.com.

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