First Nations across the province are largely ignoring Quebec’s bingo law, or they have found ways to get around it.
In Kahnawake, the CKRK radio station has a defiant attitude toward the Quebec government’s bingo permits.
“They can’t come into the territory to impose any licenses on us,” said Heather Bauersfeld, the station’s manager. “They have absolutely no jurisdiction here, nothing. They can’t even step a foot on our border. It would cause a war.”
Bauersfeld said CKRK gets 40 per cent of its funds from bingos.
Bingo is the main source of funds – often the only source – for radio stations in Quebec’s Inuit and Innu communities. None of them have bingo permits either.
In Mani-Utenam, the Innu radio station was slapped with a $4,000 fine in 1997 after someone called the SQ to complain about a “jackpot bingo” with $32,000 in prizes. Station manager Yves Rock was also personally hit with another $4,000 fine.
Rock said his station now limits its prizes to $15,000 – well above the limit set by Quebec law, but low enough not to attract police attention.
In Whapmagoostui, the Cree radio station was forced off the air a month ago because it doesn’t have a bingo license. But the Inuit radio station in the same community is still holding bingos.
Mary-Hannah Angutiguluk, treasurer of the Inuit station, said the Sûreté du Québec has no jurisdiction over the Inuit municipality of Kuujjuarapik. She said the SQ had no business sending a letter last December advising community groups to get bingo permits: “They were not allowed to do that.”
When the letter went out, the Inuit station turned to the Makivik Corp.’s lawyers for advice. Angutiguluk said the Kativik Police Force – not the SQ – was deemed to have jurisdiction over the station, and they decided to allow the bingos to go on.
Angutiguluk said Kuujjuarapik signed an agreement with Quebec in 1995 allowing the municipality to issue bingo permits. The Inuit station got such a permit.