About-face, as RCMP’s CSU raids Indigenous pot stores

Published on June 27, 2021 by David Wylie

Recent raids on unlicensed cannabis stores on Indigenous land signaled a sudden shift in the way the province has been handling the shops.

Castanet received tips RCMP had raided a cannabis grow-op along Westside Road’s “Green Mile,” located on Okanagan Indian Band land.

Meanwhile, the Kelowna Capital News reported police raided an unlicensed store on Commonwealth Road on OKIB land just outside of Lake Country.

The Solicitor General’s Office released a statement the media saying the Community Safety Unit had been “active in the area.”

“We can confirm that the CSU has been active in the area this week. However, we are unable to comment on specific complaints or enforcement actions or comment on planned activities or actions that the Community Safety Unit (CSU) will or will not undertake in response to specific cases or situations,” it says.

The unexpected action came even as the oz. was working on a feature story about a lack of enforcement.

In a statement to the oz. right around the time of the raids, BC Solicitor General Mike Farnworth explains the government is directing police to take a softer approach, in part because many illicit shops are operating on First Nations land and being heavy-handed would conflict with the spirit of reconciliation.

“We are committed to reconciliation with Indigenous Nations and we seek to do this by building positive relationships with Indigenous governments,” he says.

“The Community Safety Unit is taking an approach of communicating, educating and collaborating with Indigenous governments that have illicit retail locations within their territory.”