Editorial: When Rights Are Trampled On, Everyone Suffers

12 September 2007

What does the United Nations have in common with the Quebec Superior Court? Both agree that the First Nations people in Canada have the right of self-determination. And the Federal Government of Canada? It has gone so far as to enshrine that right in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So, why does the Alberta government stand alone in denying this inherent right? No one at Alexander First Nation (AFN) can answer this question, as repeated requests for discussion and clarification have met with the same response--no response, save a threat of legal action if AFN does not "cease and desist" online gambling-related activities, with the full weight of the wealthy oil province’s coffers behind it. Ironically, Alberta's wealth has been created by natural resources belonging to all First Nations, which were never actually released during the initial treaty signing.

The particular case in point that is the subject of the Alberta government threats relates to the formation of two AFN entities: the Alexander Gaming Commission (AGC), a regulatory body offering online gaming licenses to operators who ensure the games are fair to all, that winners are paid and that the vulnerable are protected, and Alexander Internet Technologies (AIT), which was set up to offer hosted data center services to online gaming companies.

In recent months, the Alberta government has chosen to escalate their one-sided battle with AFN, going beyond Canada’s borders, and without notifying AFN of its intent to influence the U.K. government into denying entry to the AGC as a white-listed gaming jurisdiction. To add insult to injury, the Alberta government has refused the courtesy of releasing a copy of the letter that they wrote to the U.K. government, and has denied the U.K. government permission to release it.

Even with repeated requests, Alberta government representatives have refused to outline their reasons for their opposition to AFN's federally-protected sovereignty, and refused to enter into any discussions on their concerns about AFN regulating online gaming.

This latest action by the Alberta government, of sending a letter of dissent to the U.K. government, went well beyond passive disapproval and has caused true financial harm to a peaceful, law-abiding First Nation community--a community whose only crime seems to be looking to achieve a higher level of self sufficiency for its members and opportunity for its youth through gaining highly skilled technology expertise, transferable to many industries.

Without this white listing, operators licensed by AFN are not allowed the privilege of advertising in the United Kingdom. Could this negative Alberta government reaction be caused by jealousy, in that the Alberta government, which has periodically shown an interest in regulating online gaming, has yet to develop its own strategy and regulatory environment? Only the Alberta government would know, and they aren’t talking . . . at least not to the AFN community.

[IGN is currently working to solicit a response from the Alberta government. -Ed.]

Chief Raymond Arcand is the chief of Alexander First Nation, in the Province of Alberta, Canada.