RCMP raid Bear Buds in Eskasoni to enforce provincial laws on Indigenous lands

Bear Buds in Eskasoni First Nation, Mi’kmaw territory was raided by the RCMP detachment in Eskasoni on Thursday, Jan 18, 2023 at around noon. Several armed RCMP officers came in two vehicles to the store and attempted to force their way in as employees barred their entry. 

An officer claiming to be a “provincial inspector,” insisted that he be allowed into the shop. He was told by Albert Marshall, the store’s owner that he was not allowed to enter the shop. Marshall stated that there was “no imminent danger to anyone,” and that as a provincial officer, he had no right to enter the premises on Federal lands reserved for Indians.

Marshall said he told the officer that he was “no different than a Provincial health inspector who can’t inspect any of the restaurants on reserve.” According to Marshall, the officer said that if we wasn’t let in, he would force his way in and would lay further charges if his entry was obstructed. 

Marshall said the officer said he was “not here to take anything, just looking to see if there’s “contraband” cannabis on the property.”

Marshall let the officer into his store, and showed him the constitutional certificate that Chief Del Riley, former National Chief who participated in negotiating Sections 25 and 35 on behalf of the National Indian Brotherhood, and Chris Googoo of the Micmac Rights Association had provided the store. 

Two years ago, Marshall was raided by the RCMP only for them to drop all charges but to keep his cannabis products.

The officers disregarded what they were told and proceeded to remove cannabis products from Marshall’s store. Nobody was charged by the police, and no paperwork or warrant was shown or left behind. 

According to Chief Riley, in acting the way they did, the officers “breached the constitutionally protected Section 25 and 35 Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of Marshall as well as Sections 88 and 89 of the Indian Act.”

Section 88 of the Indian Act states that Provincial Laws of general application apply to Indians “except to the extent that those laws are inconsistent with this [Indian] Act” or “the terms of any treaty and any other Act of Parliament.” Mi’kmaq peace and friendship treaties made with the British Crown explicitly outline the rights of the Mi’kmaq people to trade on their unceded territories, and thus over-rule – according to the Canadian system itself – the province’s cannabis laws.

Section 89 of the Indian Act states that “the real and personal property of an Indian or a band situated on a reserve is not subject to charge, pledge, mortgage, attachment, levy, seizure, distress or execution in favour or at the instance of any person other than an Indian or a band.” In seizing Mr. Marshall’s property and removing it from his premises, the RCMP violated this federal law as well. 

The RCMP detachment in Eskasoni was contacted for comment but did not reply to our request before the publication of this article. 

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