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Water Today Title October 16, 2019

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Loraine White, Founding Member of Seven Leaf - Process and importance of community

[00:00:06] I am one of the founding partners of Seven Leaf. Seven leaf is a federally licensed Health Canada permitted licensed producer of cannabis. It was certainly from our perspective it was a long, long long process. We originally submitted our application in early 2014 and we received our federal permit our federal license in September of 2018 so it was well over four and a half years of processing and certainly you know we believe that we probably one of the longest pending applications in Health Canada history specifically for the production of cannabis. Considering that we as First Nations people and specifically coming from the territory of Akwasasne, there historically have been stigmas attached to our community because of our location and because of the implementation of the border which transits through our territory and because of those characterizations in historic representations of who we are because we're in Akwasasne.

[00:01:24][77.4] [00:01:25] We thought it was certainly going to be a longshot for a group of mohawks private Mohawk business people not entrepreneurs to come together and file an application to the federal government to allow us to grow and produce cannabis products within the heart of Akwasasne, on Cornwall island. And you know that's why when we were first going down this path we just had some really frank conversations with one another knowing that that certainly could be an obstacle for us and as we saw other applications weaving their way through the Canada Health Care process and getting their approvals and then some certainly were lengthy but by no means do we think that our application was comparative in terms of the time it took for us to be approved.

The community component for us was integral to our success and knowing that we we needed a touchstone throughout the entire process. We first went to the community and began our consultation even before we submitted our application. We knew that we needed to have that feedback. We knew we needed to have that reference, and we had to have those conversations and the dialogue begin very early on and that would gauge where ultimately we would end up. And that's what happened in our in our situation. We had some some tough conversations and mostly with the elders who were concerned about their understanding of what cannabis can do and the potential negative effects that cannabis can have on our young people in particular. So it really was an educational effort that we undertook initially and have remained consistent in those efforts over the course of the past four and a half years. We still invite community groups to come to the facility to have informal discussions. You know our grassroots efforts actually went beyond having formal community meetings and included door to door visits with people sitting at their tables having having them share with us you know where they thought that the cannabis industry played a role or not in our view in our own communities. One of the most significant benefits that we see from now having this facility operating and growing and producing cannabis is the creation of jobs and in particular quality jobs for our community members and even our college graduates. We currently have today just around 40 employees and of those 40 employees we have 75 percent of those employees who are the age of 30 or younger. And that is fantastic. Because even even of those 75 percent number 30 and younger the vast majority of those individuals have college degrees and in advanced degrees that for us is really what is so tremendously fulfilling knowing that our young people can actually be part of an industry that is right now the fastest growing segment of the economic segment of the Canadian workplace and certainly I think is going to continue and expand into the U.S. market. But to be part of this to be part of an industry that they are interested in that they find exciting and that will allow them professional growth. So for us yes this is a business and this is a business that is being operated by individuals as opposed to a council. But that's one part of it.

[00:05:25][240.4] [00:05:26] The other part for us in the long terms the long term effects and benefits as we see it is the fact that this is going to be really a vehicle for job creation in our community. Certainly I think you know they bring with it that that youthful enthusiasm which is just contagious. And when you can come to work and you can you know smile and joke. I mean these young people are responsible for growing plants at the end of the day. They have music in the grow rooms and it's just an environment of lightness. And so I mean there certainly are those of us who have to handle the business side of it and the legal side and the political aspects of of being in this particular area and space. But then you know for the young people were working there, there's a camaraderie and there's a unity and there's a sense that you know this is something that was taboo. In the not so distant past and now they're actually working here legally and generating a healthy wage for themselves and their families. In the case of working at Seven Leaf I think these young people are definitely coming home and sharing the stories of the workplace and how this company is growing and how we're enthusiastic and how we support our own and how we're encouraging our young people to participate in this exciting new cannabis space, in whatever area they would choose and perhaps some of them would choose to seek advanced degrees in cannabis studies which now is becoming commonplace in universities throughout Canada. And that's just phenomenal to think that we're helping to facilitate that spark in speaking to other First Nation communities and First Nation representatives and chiefs and council members, that is a consistent message that for there to be success in this area and in this industry and within your own respective communities, it is absolutely essential that that dialogue is initiated right from the get go. I don't believe for a second that we would have actually reached our goal and objective of obtaining this license without that serving as the very foundation. If in fact we had received feedback from the community and community members and community groups and they were unanimous across the board that this was not something that was going to be beneficial to our community, to our people and to our families then this wouldn't have never gotten off the ground. So it's that strong sense of family and community responsibility that really drove our you know our roadmap and really set the stage for being able to do what we're doing today. We we are extremely proud of our status as Canada's first First Nations Licensed producer.

Now it comes down to what are we going to do with that. No that is not only is it a wonderful honor and distinction in a lot of respects but it's a tremendous responsibility. You know we want to establish ourselves as a business venture that can be successful within Indigenous communities. That is being led by indigenous peoples that is employing First Nation community members within the facility at what we envision for ourselves a Seven Leaf is that we actually could serve as a training ground. For those First Nation communities who have decided to enter into the license producer cannabis world and want to retain their identity as indigenous that we would actually serve as an ideal opportunity to bring their members and community members and young people to our facility. [00:05:26][0.0] [317.8]