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MCK Continues its Legal Battle against Ontario

Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke is resuming its legal charge against the province of Ontario over the recent changes in online gambling. On Monday, the tribe filed a notice of application in the Ontario Superior Court, thus stating that the changes to the province’s iGaming sector made by the provincial government are illegal and unconstitutional.

The dispute between the two stems from the launch of the private iGaming market of Ontario by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario in April 2022. This affects the tribe as prior to that, the First Nation’s Kahnawà:ke Gaming Commission was responsible for licensing operators in the province, and it is heavily reliant on revenue from iGaming.

No Other Choice

In court, MCK is represented by Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, however, none of the allegations have been provde in court. Elected Council Chief for the tribe, Mike Delisle Jr., commented that it has come to the point where the First Nation feels that it has no other choice but to launch the petition, as a way of getting the local government to understand the severity of the topic.

Mr. Delisle noted that the iGaming framework keeps the tribe out of the local online market and undermines its expertise in the online gambling sector. He also believes that the changes will significantly damage the community’s economy, as the model puts in jeopardy the entirety of the Nation’s operations that it has developed over the last two decades.

Additionally, the spokesperson also commented that since the launch of the market some businesses previously licensed by the tribe have already jumped ship and transitioned into the provincial sector. He is also alarmed that the changes in Ontario could set a precedent across other provinces, thus leading to potential harm to other First Nation communities.

Lastly, Mr. Delisle stated that the Ontario Superior Court is the tribe’s last resort and that they have already exhausted discussions. He claimed that both the country and the province need to take a position to ensure that Indigenous abilities to exercise jurisdiction are recognized and allowed to continue their efforts to strengthen the economy.

It should be mentioned that MCK has tried to discuss the matter at hand with provincial officials and federal Justice Minister David Lametti before passing the change. According to Mr. Delisle, Mr. Lametti has met with the tribe numerous times and has been introduced to its concerns. Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General said the notice of application was served and is being reviewed.

Not the First Legal Dispute

This is not the first disagreement between the Province of Ontario and local First Nations. In September 2021, Ontario’s Court of Appeal ruled that the government and the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation have breached the terms of their revenue-sharing contract with 132 Ontario First Nations. Thus ordering the province to pay an amount of 1.7% of two non-gambling revenue sources to the Nations.

Source: Deer, Ka’nhehsí:io “Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke taking Ontario government to court over online gamingCBC, November 28, 2022