Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) is pleased to see progress made on safeguards related to the sales and purchase of bear spray, a critical safety issue for First Nations citizens on and off-reserve.

First Nations leaders in Manitoba, such as Chief Angela Levasseur, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN), pointed out that age is the only restriction on selling machetes and bear spray, which leads to adults purchasing large quantities and reselling them to youth and gang members. As a result, First Nations experience increased gang activity, significant drug trafficking and addiction crises, and increased abuse of women, children, and Elders. The solution to this problem takes both a federal and provincial approach and AMC passed a resolution in October 2022 that directed AMC Grand Chief Merrick to assist NCN in its lobbying efforts regarding the criminalizing of bear spray sales to youth and adults, as well as regulating bear spray sales by licensing.

To discuss how our governments can work together on common public safety goals and share solutions from a First Nations perspective, Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, Chief Sidney Ballantyne, Chief Jordan Hill, Chief Wayne Desjarlais, and Grand Chief Garrison Settee met in Ottawa on April 4, 2023, with the Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, to raise this matter of licensing and criminalization of bear spray and machetes.

AMC applauds the Province of Manitoba’s statement today acknowledging that bear repellent is increasingly used as a weapon, and that photo identification and validated contact information should be required. Manitoba has implemented strong regulatory changes to ensure the proper sale and application of bear spray. Under Manitoba’s Pesticides and Fertilizers Control Act, bear spray sales are now regulated, with vendors verifying purchaser identification against government documents. Manitoba also requests stronger restrictions for online sales of bear spray in Canada and potential future legislation to change the age limits. This announcement was raised today with federal Justice Minister David Lametti, who agreed to investigate this matter for online sales of bear spray.

“Bear spray is increasingly used to perpetuate violence in our Nations, and there are no regulations to prevent its misuse,” said Chief Angela Levasseur. “It is encouraging that the province is implementing our request for this safeguard, and we hope that Canada enforces the same regulations for the safety of all First Nations people.”

“The issues of mental health and addictions are the ongoing inter-generalization effects of colonization, and the lack of sustainable long-term funding from governments to provide treatment, healthcare services, and prevention resources has severe consequences,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Hopefully, stronger regulations will now prevent vendors from advertising and selling these items openly, keeping our Nations safe.”