NIPISSING FIRST NATION – (CCNMatthews – June 20, 2006) – Chiefs of the Anishinabek Nation have committed to making their 42 communities smoke-free environments.

During their June 12-14 annual Grand Council Assembly, Anishinabek Chiefs adopted a set of guidelines to phase in no-smoking policies over the next few years.

“I have envisioned a smoke-free Anishinabek Nation. I am happy to say that this decision by our Chiefs brings us one step closer to that reality,” said John Beaucage, who was re-elected as Grand Council Chief of the 42-member Anishinabek Nation. “We are doing this for the health and well-being of our children and our communities.

“Tobacco was given to us as a gift from the Creator to be used in healing, ceremony and prayer. This will be foremost in our minds,” added Beaucage.

The Grand Council Chief has been appointed to the Minister of Health Promotion’s Smoke-free Ontario Campaign Committee, and has worked to create an understanding of traditional tobacco uses, cancer and cancer care, jurisdictional issues and First Nations self-regulation.

Anishinabek Chiefs-in-Assembly endorsed a resolution to “…encourage the development and promote the use of Anishinabek tobacco laws and regulations that are respectful of our traditional uses of tobacco, seek to ameliorate youth tobacco misuse, and regulate smoking in First Nations public buildings and areas…”

Chiefs chose to adopt their own by-laws and regulations to implement this policy, while at the same time rejecting the imposition of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act on their communities. First Nations maintain that provincial laws do not apply on federal reserve lands. Their resolution specified that no-smoking policies would represent “…our own measures decided upon by our First Nations and through subsequent by-laws and regulations appropriate to our needs in each of our respective First Nations”.

A workplan will be developed by the Union of Ontario Indians by the Fall of 2006 with a target of seeing the first member community entirely smoke-free by early 2007.

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The UOI is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.