Bill C-218 heads to Senate without change, despite Kahnawake objections

·3 min read

The private member’s bill that would legalize single-game sports betting in Canada was returned to the Senate with no changes to it over the objections of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and other critics who say the scheme is no more than a way for the provinces and territories to further profit off sports betting without having to administer the program.

Bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, was reviewed last week and passed without any changes by the Senate of Canada’s banking, trade and commerce committee.

If the upper chamber doesn’t recommend any amendments, after a third reading, the bill will then become law and would come into force on a date set by the federal government.

In Kahnawake, concerns are rife that the proposed law would gut the lucrative online sports betting business based in the community that has garnered plaudits from the international online gaming industry.

To date in Canada, legal sports betting has been administered only by the provinces and territories, and has only been available as part of a multiple-game bet out of match-fixing fears. The new law would allow agencies ‘approved to administer programs on behalf of provincial and territorial governments’ to run sports betting.

An MCK statement said the Council was disgusted by the Senate’s disregard of the community’s concerns and the fast-track Bill C-218 has apparently landed on.

‘The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is repulsed that Canada’s Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee has indeed decided to ignore Kahnawake’s request for needed amendments – and a call to uphold a truly respectful process of reconciliation. They have instead made the decision to rush Bill C-218, without amendment, back into the full Senate, a move that threatens Kahnawake’s ability to control its economic future and self-determination,’ the statement read.

The statement continued, saying like the federal government’s ham-handed attempts at correcting the mistakes of the past with words, thoughts and prayers, once more the concerns of Indigenous people go unheeded and ignored.

‘Indigenous peoples have spent generations being disregarded. Being ignored. And having their ability to shape their own future decided by others. Other Senators later – still on a live feed – suggested non-binding, condescending, token language around “urging, encourage and support” Kahnawake’s position rather than add the requested binding language provided to Senators. In other words: all words, all optics – and no substance. An absolute and intentional disregard for, and disrespect of, Kahnawake’s inherent rights and interests.’

Ontario Senator Vernon White told CTV earlier this week that the bill isn’t really about taking sports betting out of the black or grey market, as some lawmakers have posited the bill.

"Because it's about money," said White. "It's not about gambling addiction, it's not about First Nations and it's not about match-fixing. It's about revenue, and they believe they can tap into that revenue."

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase

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