News: Canada First Nations Rights

Canada First Nation Update

First Nations start challenge of provincial tobacco tax restriction
 
By Joana Draghici
Saskatchewan News Network
October 8, 2010
 
Austin Bear asked a simple question Thursday as he challenged the Saskatchewan government.
 
“Can I get four cartons of Matinee, extra large, king size, please?” the chief of Muskoday First Nation asked a cashier at the Muskoday Store and Gas Bar, south of Prince Albert.
 
“We can sell you one carton — the other three you will have to pay tax on,” responded the cashier.
 
As Bear pulled out his status card, he said, “I’ll pay the deposit on the tax on the three as a result of the new legislation and the regulations.”
 
First Nations leaders from across the province gathered at the gas bar Thursday to take action against the one-carton tax-exemption legislation passed by the provincial government in this year’s budget.
 
On July 1, changes made by the province limited the number of cigarettes purchased tax free by First Nations people on reserves to one carton from three. The government brought in the measure in an attempt to recover an estimated $5-million to $7-million tax loss because of black-market tobacco sales.
 
Bear, along with 40 First Nation leaders who also lined up in the store to buy four cigarette cartons each, signed individual affidavits as proof they were denied the tax exemption on the extra cartons purchased Thursday.
 
They plan to file those statements in a small-claims suit within the next two weeks to recover the rebate of the sales tax and contest what Bear called a breach of treaty rights.
 
“This is not only a Muskoday issue,” Bear said. “This is an issue that affects all of our First Nations in Saskatchewan and beyond.”
 
Vice-chief Morley Watson said when Premier Brad Wall announced the change of legislation last March, the First Nations leaders immediately asked for a meeting with Wall.
 
“At that time, we were told that (the premier) would probably see us in court,” Watson said. “We tried our hardest to make them do what good governments do, and that’s to talk about things so we could negotiate and do something that is mutually beneficial, but unfortunately they chose not to do that.”
 
Bear said under the Tobacco Tax Act in 1998, there were no limitations or quotas mentioned — the three-carton tax-free limitation was an appendage added by First Nations leaders.
 
“We imposed (the restriction) because we have concerns about the black-marketing of cigarettes,” Bear said. “We wouldn’t allow that to happen, so we tried to curb it.”
 
During Thursday’s meeting, lawyer Ron Cherkewich explained legal options that can be taken against the government.
 
He said the leaders are taking action against the government’s contention that it’s trying to address health concerns among First Nations people and its enforcement of the tobacco act.
 
“The government said they had to do this because there were people abusing the system,” Cherkewich said.

“We can’t find one prosecution. We can’t find one set of charges for anybody that allegedly abused the tobacco or gasoline system.”
 
He said the government’s argument that it’s worried about the health of First Nations individuals due to tobacco smoking “doesn’t make sense” and the government needs to provide data showing such health deterioration.
 
“They’re all of a sudden paternalistically interested in the welfare of the First Nations people, because they’re smokers,” Cherkewich said. “Well, how come they are still selling tobacco to First Nations off the reserve?”
 
Bear said local businesses would be affected by a decline in cigarette sales.
 
“First Nations and their retail store outlets are going to feel the effects of retailing this product and its limitations,” he said. “If you can’t sell the product, it impacts on the profit margin.”
 
Watson said a lot of programs on reserves, which are funded through these revenues, could suffer if the money isn’t available to support them.
 
“It’s a violation of our treaty rights to tax exemption and, unfortunately, this government hasn’t taken our treaty rights very seriously and our leaders are saying, ‘Stand up and do what you’re supposed to do,’ ” he said.
(PRINCE ALBERT DAILY HERALD)
 


Study says smokers likely to experience more stress
By: Misty Harris
April 15, 2009
Canadians hoping to blow off economic anxiety with cigarettes could get burned, according to new research linking smoking with significantly higher-than-normal stress levels.
Drawing on data from 2,250 adults, Pew Research — a non-partisan American think-tank — found half (50 per cent) of all smokers claim to experience frequent stress in their lives, compared with just 35 per cent of ex-smokers and 31 per cent of non-smokers. Even controlling for basic demographic traits such as sex, age, education, income and parental status, the researchers say current smokers are still significantly more likely than non-smokers and quitters to have self-reported stress.
With a survey showing a quarter of smokers worried about the recession are smoking more, and another 13 per cent are delaying quitting for the same reason, experts say the new report reflects an urgent need to debunk the “mythic relaxation response” of cigarettes.
“Many smokers perceive smoking as a way to calm stress, when, in fact, what they’re doing is satisfying nicotine cravings and withdrawal,” says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“In many respects, smoking — or the delay in having a cigarette — is the cause of stress.”
Cunningham believes Pew’s report supports the need for more educational messages about the link between stress and tobacco use. At the same time, he’s not convinced the deepening economic turmoil will necessarily increase smoking rates in Canada, which have remained flat (roughly one in five people) since 2005.
“Clearly, a recession is bad news for Canada,” says Cunningham. “But less disposable income may be a motivator to quit, or not start.”
The Pew report draws on data from a nationally representative U.S. poll in mid-2008, when economic anxiety was still months from peaking. It leaves open the question whether stress is a byproduct of using cigarettes or if smokers are predisposed to anxiety.
“(Smokers) tend to be lower on the classic socio-economic scales, and some of that correlates with stress,” says Paul Taylor, director of Pew Social & Demographic Trends.
“But we did a regression analysis that tried to hold those factors constant, and we still found an independent relationship between smoking and reports of being stressed.”
Vince Harden, a smoker for nearly 40 years, is skeptical of the findings and points to the fact that tobacco rations were given to soldiers during the Second World War as an aid to relaxation.
If his stress is any higher than the non-smoking population, the Winnipeg man says, it’s not because of cigarettes, but rather the “anti-tobacco people” crusading against their use.
“Smokers were doing just fine before everyone started bashing us,” says Harden, 55.
Health Canada declined to comment on the report. The data, collected by Princeton Survey Research International for Pew Research, is considered accurate within 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Editorial – Gamble on smoke law
19/01/2009
By: Staff Writer comments (5)
THE provincial government is standing by its right to ban smoking in reserve-based gaming houses and drinking establishments and so it is heading to court a fourth time to defend its approach to clearing the air in Manitoba’s public places. The provincial authority over issuing gaming and liquor licences may win the day, but there has been a lot of effort, money and ill will spent on a clumsy, unreasonable law.
The Brokenhead Ojibway Nation says the no-smoking condition the province slaps on all gaming and drinking licences is a back-door approach to legislating life and business on reserves, encroaching upon a band’s jurisdiction, which flows through federal authority. It is hard not to have some sympathy for Brokenhead, which believes it has invested in ventilation sufficiently to keep smokers happy and non-puffers healthy.
That, however, is immaterial to the Doer government, which passed the Non-Smokers Protection Act, banning smoking in public places, except federal businesses and reserves. The heavy-handed edict landed the province in court when a bar owner challenged the fact that First Nations businesses got the leg up, raking in the smoking customers who had nowhere else to drink. Amid the fray, the province tried to find peace by making a smoking ban a condition for getting a liquor or gaming licence, thereby covering First Nations businesses.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeal dismissed the original challenge, saying the uneven playing field resulted from a split in jurisdiction, not because businesses on reserves are owned or run by aboriginal people. The ruling was silent on whether a province can attach conditions to their services (i.e., gaming licences) that also impinge on life on a reserve.
There is provincial reach into activities on a reserve: Conservation officers can enforce the law on a reserve, as can child welfare workers. Ottawa believes that occupational safety and health matters on reserves are under provincial authority.
The province had opportunity to impose conditions, through workplace safety rules, to protect the health of both employees and patrons at casinos, bingo halls and bars wherever they operate in Manitoba. If a business can prove that the air is sufficiently free of the chemicals, toxins or particulates that waft from a cigarette, posing no real risk to people, then it should be free to allow smoking. If not, then not.
The smoking ban is widely popular. Most people don’t want to smell like someone else’s cigarette. It seemed a win-win proposition for the provincial government: a quick way to deal with smoking’s threats and a real vote-getter to boot. It has created enmity, confusion and unnecessary expense, however.
If this new round of court challenges does not fall the provincial government’s way, the Doer administration should finally consider the more reasonable option. Regulating air quality in workplaces can protect employees and the public.


Manitoba native band sues province over smoking ban  -MB
Monday, 12 January 2009
Written by Steve Lambert, THE CANADIAN PRESS   
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is facing another legal challenge over its attempts to ban smoking in public places.
The Brokenhead Ojibwa Nation filed a statement of claim in Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday that argues the province has no authority to require reserves to go smoke-free.
“The province is trying to force First Nations through policy and economics to do what it cannot do by law,” the band council north of Winnipeg said in a written statement.
Manitoba was among the first provinces to ban smoking in public places in 2004. The government readily admitted the law did not cover areas of federal jurisdiction such as prisons, military bases and aboriginal reserves.
To try to convince casinos and gambling lounges on reserves to follow the law, the government has made smoke-free air a condition of any new or renewed gaming licence. The Brokenhead Nation, which is setting up a new video lottery lounge, calls the move a complete disregard for the right of First Nations to govern themselves.
Gaming Minister Dave Chomiak was not immediately available to react to the lawsuit.
It’s the second major legal battle that has erupted over the smoking ban.
In 2005, Robert Jenkinson, a non-aboriginal bar owner in Treherne, Man., argued the law violated his right to equal treatment under the law. He had to stop his customers from smoking, he argued, while some aboriginal gambling lounges on reserves a few kilometres away could let their patrons puff to their heart’s content.
A Court of Queen’s Bench judge sided with Jenkinson and said the law violated the Charter of Rights, but the Court of Appeal later overturned that decision. Jenkinson was fined $2,500 for letting customers light up.
The application of provincial laws on reserves is a grey area. In theory, at least, smoking bans in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and other provinces apply on aboriginal lands. But band councils can pass bylaws to allow smoking under the federal Indian Act, which supersedes any provincial law.
The result has been a rise in the number of native-run smoker-friendly casinos in or near cities such as Yorkton and Swift Current, Sask.
Manitoba’s NDP government has tried to use gaming licence requirements and the promise of extra video lottery machines as a way to persuade First Nations to ban smoking — and has succeeded in many areas.
A large casino that sits on the Brokenhead reserve continues to be smoke-free.


Haldimand to take direct action against smoke shops -ON
Posted By BY KAREN BEST CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
Posted June 2, 2008
Injunction considered last resort
Haldimand County council wants to ask Ontario Provincial Police to take enforcement action if any municipal bylaws are broken by operators of smoke shops within Haldimand County’s jurisdiction.
Chief administrative officer Don Boyle said police will be asked to enforce bylaws as set out in their contract with the county. Over the next few weeks, county officials will talk to OPP to find out officially if they are prepared and willing to act on bylaw infractions.
Boyle also mentioned that the RCMP could be willing and could have federal concerns about related tobacco enforcement issues.
The key reason the county is looking toward police force commitment is the health and safety of bylaw officers related to conditions involved with going into illegal smoke shops, Boyle added.
Rather than making new bylaws regarding tobacco issues, council has asked staff to look at what falls under current bylaws, he said.
In January, Residents Against Smoke Shacks (RASS) asked council to licence smoke shops and regulate them through a county bylaw. They proposed $5,000-a-day charges for operating without a licence, for selling cigarettes to persons under 18, and for other issues.
By that time, county council had already put the Ontario government and Six Nations band council on notice that smoke shops were inappropriate land uses. The province owns the property at the end of Argyle Street South in Caledonia where a smoke shop was erected last fall.
Two shops on Highway 6, less than a half kilometre away from the Argyle Street shop, are standing on land purchased by Six Nations band council in 1994 and 1995. The federal government has yet to transfer the farms to reserve status.
On June 23, council members discussed smoke shops and how to take action on their operation in a closed session. Later, they voted to petition the federal government to stop “ongoing illegal activity and breaches” of the Tobacco Act.
For their part, the county will pursue building code charges for construction without permits against owners or occupiers of various sites. Boyle said some buildings under construction do not meet the building code and others already completed might not either.
Bylaw charges will also be pursued for illegal uses of land against owners or occupiers of sites where smoke shops or other structures stand. This motion was deliberately broad to cover any bylaw infraction, said Boyle.
The county is not identifying any specific smoke shops but will focus on those off the reserve, he added.
Boyle said the land held in trust for Six Nations is still under Haldimand County authority and the county will go forward as if it has authority on provincial land.
If the municipality cannot get its day in court over bylaw infractions, then the municipality can go forward with an injunction, Boyle added. While OPP may not support the bylaw, they have a duty to follow through on a court-ordered injunction, he added.
“We obviously need assistance with it,” said Boyle.
Council’s June 23 motion also included the option of pursuing an injunction.
After the City of Brantford and a developer working in the city sought injunctions restraining people from interfering with construction, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino met with Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs to tell them he would have to eventually enforce the injunctions.
For Haldimand County smoke shop issues, a potential injunction would be directed at the owner or person renting or occupying the land and could include the provincial government, as owner of the Argyle Street South property, Boyle told The Chronicle.
“Keep in mind the injunction route seems to have some traction with respect to construction and development, ” he p>He referred to an injunction secured against Six Nations individuals to restrain them from interfering with construction at a 44-unit townhouse site in Cayuga. Construction is going ahead there, he noted.
Meanwhile, Haldimand County officials are talking to their Brantford counterparts on an ongoing basis. County staff are monitoring challenges to the city’s bylaws forbidding construction blockages and requests for unauthorized development fees from the Haudenosaunee Development Institute.
On June 2, Judge G. E. Taylor of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered that defendants, who are named in court documents as members of Six Nations, cease and desist in interfering with development and construction.
According to the June 2 endorsement papers, Taylor decided aboriginal interests in lands are “a triable issue” and that interference with development will cause “irreparable harm” to Brantford. He also said defendants who attended five named Brantford sites would not be inconvenienced “by being required to comply with the law prohibiting interference with an owner’s lawful use and enjoyment of property”.
The city’s June 2 injunction was based on the bylaws banning construction interference and fee requests from HDI.
In turn, HDI has applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to declare the bylaws invalid based on non-compliance to the Canadian Charter of Rights which recognizes First Nations treaty rights. In court documents, the institute, which was established by the Confederacy council to oversee development in the Haldimand Tract, also referred to the Indian Act and to the Constitution Act of 1867 which recognized “Indians” were a responsibility of Canada as were criminal matters.
The Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council has asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to order Brantford and Ontario to consult and accommodate people of Six Nations before any more development is approved in the city. In a press release, Band Chief Bill Montour said the city and Brant County are aware of Six Nations claims and interests these municipalities.
His council was concerned that the city’s injunction was a direct threat to the collective land rights of Six Nations people. As a result, band council asked the city and province to refrain from development on Six Nations lands without prior, free and informed consent, Montour stated.
Meanwhile, Haldimand watches and learns and gathers more information, said Boyle. A challenge of a bylaw, injunction or lawsuit can be expensive because the ratio of expenses to potential for rewards is not good, he added.
“The idea of making a statement like suing the Six Nations for damages makes for great headlines,” said Boyle.
Instead the county is trying to play “the right cards” while refraining from making statements for political gain, he p>During an interview, Haldimand Norfolk MP Diane Finley spoke out on the tobacco issue. “Our government has been very clear about the crackdown on contraband. Minister (Stockwell) Day has come forward with a comprehensive plan to address contraband tobacco and that includes illicit sales,” she said.
When told Six Nations Confederacy Chiefs were looking into regulating tobacco, she said in an earlier interview, she did not know what they were proposing.
“Tobacco is federally regulated. There are various aspects under federal regulation but there are also many that fall under provincial jurisdiction,” Finley said in May. “So I don’t know exactly what they are proposing but it’s going to have to comply with the law.”
Awhile ago, Cayuga Sub-Chief Leroy Hill told reporters that members of many Six Nations families are employed in the tobacco industry. Any outside attempts to interfere with the industry will result in confrontation, he added. He was also offended with federal references to organized crime, feeling such comments must be substantiated.
In early May, Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced that Canada was taking action to stop trade of illicit tobacco by criminal organizations through an RCMP enforcement strategy. Under this direction, law enforcement can reduce availability and demand for contraband tobacco by dismantling manufacturing plants, disrupting supply lines and seizing illicit tobacco and related proceeds generated by organized crime, he said in a press release.
In their strategy document, RCMP stated that organized crime networks are exploiting aboriginal communities and noted that aboriginal participation in public safety and anti-organized crime efforts is fundamental to success.
Article ID# 1096145

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Another attack on nation to nation trading with mohawk tobacco..
Monday, June 16, 2008
Canada’s police and law authorities can now charge people (ie mohawks) who are caught transporting “contraband” tobacco under the new terrorist financing act created by mortal enemy stockwell day who has vowed to eliminate the mohawk tobacco issue…LOL…
In a report under the socio-economic reprecussions of contraband tobacco created for the house of commons by the standing committee on public safety and national security which was witnessed by Six Nations own Grand River Enterprises who interestingly enough, Canada deems as the representatives of the tobacco industry, on monday may 12, 2008…those who are arrested in connection with “contraband” tobacco can be chareged under numerous charges under the criminal code of Canada such as proceeds of crime and money laundering, the tobacco act and customs act and may alos be ordered by the colonial court system to pay a fine to the victims’ justice fund…WTF…
Imperial Tobacco presented a supporting document on the illicit trade and contraband in tobacco products…on may 5, 2008 where their methodology methods could be questioned as they contain more than a few holes in the research they claimed to do during may 4, 2007 and june 5, 2007…
all four of these articles point fingers at akwesasne and kahnawake claiming that the surrounding areas these mohawk reserves is where they found the majority of their samples of contraband cigarette butts that they had used to support their research..furthermore, these four documents critisize and criminalize these communities..suggesting that tobacco contraband is trafficed by well-orgainized criminal enterprises that use the profits to finance other criminal activities..interestingly enough
these communities where not involved, consulted, nor invited to attend these presentations in order to respond to these accusations…
in this seven page report are tailored questions for further research supporting their theory of course!
while these four documents were given to the six nations band council who was quite disturbed that they had found their way to many people in the six nations community..they also found their way to the MCK and MCA..band council of kahnawake and akwesasne who publicly responded that they would like the opportunity to respond to the house of commons since their communities are the ones being targeted the most….
both elected chief cheryl jacobs and elected grand chief mike delisle jr who by the way did not state they represented the nation but did point out they are elected chiefs and represent the territitory…gave a tradtional and hsitorical background on the mohawk right of nation to nation trading and were disturbed that they were not consulted nor invited to participate solutions suggestions ..
ah yes..antoher canadian government strategy to criminalize mohawks and to further divide the people…another attack on the nation and peoples economy…LOL…fah-q stockwell day and your new strategy that is not really new by the way….
Posted by audra taillefer at 5:10 PM


Tobacco Solution Should Involve All Parties Concerned
Monday, 12 May 2008
Ottawa, ON — On Friday, May 7th, Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, and RCMP Assistant Commissioner Raf Souccar announced that the Canadian government is taking action to stop the trade of illicit tobacco in Canada by criminal organizations. This is to be achieved, stated the Minister by launching the RCMP Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy, as well, a new government task force. The announcement has drawn critisism from Ontario Regional Chief Toulouse.
The new strategy will help law enforcement to reduce the availability and demand for contraband tobacco by:
Dismantling manufacturing facilities;
Disrupting distribution supply lines; and
Seizing illicit tobacco and the related proceeds generated by organized crime.
In addition, the government will, Day stated, “continue to work closely with those Canadians who have been deeply affected by this illicit trade of tobacco, including tobacco growers and their communities”.
“Tobacco trafficking and organized crime often go hand in hand, resulting in other dangerous crimes, such as gun violence and drug smuggling”, said Minister Day. “This strategy is a good first step that will significantly diminish the proceeds of organized crime groups involved in the contraband tobacco trade.  Our Government supports this initiative, which will enhance our ongoing efforts to keep our communities safe and secure.”
“The illicit tobacco trade presents a serious threat to public safety in Canada”, Day said. “Over 100 criminal organizations are currently known to be involved in the illicit tobacco trade. Profits from illegal tobacco products fund other criminal activities, such as drug and gun trafficking. The rise of organized criminal activity in the contraband tobacco market threatens the safety of all Canadians.  The RCMP Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy is an important tool to crack down on organized crime to keep guns, drugs and other illegal substance off our streets”.
This announcement has drawn concern about the federal government’s willingness to engage Canada’s First Nations.
“I am concerned that yet again this government refuses to sit down with First Nations to collaboratively develop a workable plan on an issue of mutual concern and significance,” stated Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse.
The Regional Chief pointed out that throughout the Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy, reference is repeatedly made of “specific Aboriginal communities” involved in the manufacture and distribution of tobacco. The Regional Chief questions how much dialogue actually occurred between the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP and the First Nation communities involved before the plan was put into action.
“I believe that First Nations are willing to jointly dialogue with government on this issue. First Nations have rights and will exercise jurisdiction over their lands to include their own laws that they want respected but also understand that the government of Canada has priorities that they want to address. But tabling a confrontational new approach to dealing with this issue will be of no benefit to any of the parties,” said the Regional Chief.
Toulouse pointed out that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security has been tasked with examining the issue of contraband tobacco. “First Nations were provided no notice that this Committee would be studying this issue. We basically happened upon this information by monitoring the Parliament of Canada website, and we have subsequently been told that no First Nations will be invited to give testimony,” Toulouse commented. “It is notable that the only witnesses that will appear before the Committee are from the tobacco industry, the RCMP and government officials”.
  
According to Toulouse, “Canada also claims that they held a national consultation process on this issue, but First Nations were not directly engaged. Clearly this was not an adequate effort to engage First Nations on such a complex issue”.
“A greater effort that consists of examining and discussing proposals that have the potential to be effective needs to occur before coming up with a Strategy that has any hope of being effective,” stated the Regional Chief.
Toulouse indicated that First Nations involved in the tobacco trade are making efforts to develop and refine their own laws including regulations which will apply on their territories. These regulations will be aimed at addressing trade and commerce as well as health concerns. He further indicated that tobacco and the tobacco trade are important for First Nations for cultural, social and economic reasons. In many communities the tobacco trade represents a key economic driver and if the government continues to frame this issue as an “Indian problem”, nothing will be resolved.
“The fact is the tobacco trade is important to the economy of many First Nation communities”, Toulouse says.
“This is an economic issue that the government is simply treating as a criminal issue. There have been instances where the government has explored other avenues to discourage the manufacturing of tobacco, such as through offering compensation programs to mainstream tobacco farmers or through outright payments to tobacco farmers for lost revenues.
“There are many issues to deal with and many avenues that could be explored to address the mutual concerns in this case,” stated Regional Chief Toulouse.
“It makes sense to me that if the finger is being pointed at First Nation communities the government of Canada should engage our communities to come to a mutually acceptable – and workable – solution because what is being pursued by Canada at this point will not be effective and will in fact aggravate an already difficult situation,” stated Regional Chief Toulouse. The Regional Chief indicated that he will be contacting Minister Stockwell Day to secure a eeting to begin this important discussion – one that First Nations believe should have been initiated before Canada unilaterally announced this new trategy”.

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More tobacco raids a ‘huge mistake,’ native chief warns ON, QC, USA
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Andrew Mayeda The Ottawa Citizen
RCMP strategy will spark ‘confrontation’
A Mohawk leader is warning the federal government to expect “confrontation” if the RCMP plans more raids on tobacco-manufacturing facilities on aboriginal reserves as part of a new enforcement strategy to combat contraband tobacco.
Meanwhile, anti-smoking advocates predict the strategy will fail unless the government steps up diplomatic pressure on the U.S. to shut down unlicensed manufacturing facilities south of the border.
The new RCMP strategy, unveiled yesterday, will focus on dismantling manufacturing facilities, disrupting supply lines and seizing contraband tobacco and related proceeds reaped by organized crimes.
According to the RCMP, most of the illegal tobacco in Canada originates from a triangle of Mohawk territories straddling Ontario, Quebec and the New York border: the U.S. side of the Akwesasne reserve, the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal, and the Tyendinaga reserve near Belleville.
The RCMP and provincial police have conducted numerous raids of the reserves over the years.
The Mounties and the Sûreté du Québec raided all three reserves in March, arresting 29 people and seizing roughly $3 million in cash, drugs and firearms.
Mike Delisle, grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, says it will be a “huge mistake” if the RCMP plans to step up such raids. The Kahnawake Mohawk do not consider the manufacture and sale of tobacco products on their land to be illegal, he said.
“If they’re making the statement that raids are imminent, then obviously it concerns me, and I would hope that the federal government or the RCMP in conjunction (with the government) are smarter and take a more collaborative approach as opposed to running rough-shod over this community, as they’ve tried in the past. Obviously, it didn’t work out to anyone’s benefit,” he said.
Chief Delisle said the response from his community could range from a peaceful standoff to “what we’ve seen in the past in terms of confrontation.”
“Our past track records show that we have a problem with invasion, regardless of whether you’re talking about 400 years ago or 1990. I think they’d get a negative reaction from the community in general if they took that approach.”
The Kahnawake Mohawk participated in blockades with other Mohawk during the 1990 standoff over land in Oka, Que. The RCMP stepped in to quell the crisis, but instead set off violent confrontations that injured several officers.
In announcing the strategy yesterday, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day offered few details on which manufacturing facilities it will target, and exactly how the RCMP will go about dismantling them.
Mr. Day said there is “no question a good portion” of illegal tobacco production takes place on reserves, but he emphasized that the RCMP will collaborate with police on reserves to address the problem.
“This is not an issue about targeting a community,” Mr. Day said.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Raf Souccar, who accompanied Mr. Day to make the announcement, said the Mounties will target organized-crime groups at the “highest level,” instead of “mom and pop” operations.
“We are trying to go after the root of the tree so that we can take it out of business.”
The Mounties will take a “multi-faceted approach” that includes education and prevention measures, he added.
Anti-smoking groups such as the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco called the strategy an important first step, but some advocates say the strategy ignores the fact that the vast majority of illegal tobacco in Canada is produced in the United States.
The RCMP has alleged that 90 per cent of the contraband tobacco seized in Canada is manufactured on the U.S. side of the Akwesasne territory.
“Just looking at the Canadian sources will have the benefit of reducing the problem, but we cannot effectively solve the problem unless we ensure we eliminate the illegal source of supply on the U.S. side of Akwesasne,” Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society.
Mr. Day should call on his U.S. counterpart, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, to shut down the Akwesasne facilities, Mr. Cunningham said.

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Minister Day announces an action plan to help stop the trade of illicit tobacco by criminal organizations
May 7, 2008
OTTAWA, – The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, today joined RCMP Assistant Commissioner Raf Souccar to announce that the Government of Canada is taking action to stop the trade of illicit tobacco in Canada by criminal organizations, by launching the RCMP Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy, as well, a new government task force .
The new strategy will help law enforcement to reduce the availability and demand for contraband tobacco by:
• Dismantling manufacturing facilities;
• Disrupting distribution supply lines; and
• Seizing illicit tobacco and the related proceeds generated by organized crime.
In addition, the government will continue to work closely with those Canadians who have been deeply affected by this illicit trade of tobacco, including tobacco growers and their communities.
“Tobacco trafficking and organized crime often go hand in hand, resulting in other dangerous crimes, such as gun violence and drug smuggling”, said Minister Day. “This strategy is a good first step that will significantly diminish the proceeds of organized crime groups involved in the contraband tobacco trade.  Our Government supports this initiative, which will enhance our ongoing efforts to keep our communities safe and secure.”
The illicit tobacco trade presents a serious threat to public safety in Canada.  Over 100 criminal organizations are currently known to be involved in the illicit tobacco trade. Profits from illegal tobacco products fund other criminal activities, such as drug and gun trafficking.  The rise of organized criminal activity in the contraband tobacco market threatens the safety of all Canadians.   The RCMP Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy is an important tool to crack down on organized crime to keep guns, drugs and other illegal substance off our streets.
“Targeting criminal organizations will have the greatest impact on disrupting all levels of illicit operations,” said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Raf Souccar.  “The Strategy, however, is about much more than enforcement.  Making a long-term impact requires several key steps, particularly public education. Raising awareness of the tobacco black market and the consequences of purchasing the products is essential to reducing demand.”
As part of the Government of Canada’s approach to combat the illicit trade in tobacco products, Minister Day instructed officials with the Department of Public Safety to lead a government task force with departments and agencies involved in tackling this issue. These departments include the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, Finance Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada and Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Its mandate is to identify concrete measures that will disrupt and reduce the trade in contraband tobacco.

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RCMP target three reserves for contraband tobacco
May 7, 2008 at 7:24 PM EDT
BILL CURRY  From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
OTTAWA — The RCMP and the Conservative government are targeting three of the most volatile native reserves in the country as part of a new effort to battle contraband tobacco and organized crime.

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Smoking out jurisdiction issues around tobacco
February 5, 2008
KATHERINE WALKER: FIRST PEOPLES
Cheap smokes have been available on reserves in Canada for decades. Just ask any smoker, aboriginal smoker or not.
In order to receive a licence to sell tobacco, all First Nations must charge the agreed-upon provincial and federal government levies. Some First Nations even charge their own tax on cigarettes sold on-reserve.


Cigarette bust on Manitoba reserve about more than taxes: AFN -MB
January 16, 2008
CBC News
The head of the Assembly of First Nations claims the RCMP overstepped its bounds when officers took part in a cigarette seizure on a Manitoba reserve last week.


Sagkeeng First Nation chief fuming over cigarette probe
Jan 16 2008
By Alexandra Paul
AN investigation involving the RCMP and provincial tax agents in a search for contraband cigarettes at the Sagkeeng First Nation has left the band chief fuming.
Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Donavan Fontaine is calling an incident on Jan. 9 at the Smoke Signals Smoke Shop a “massive raid by the RCMP and provincial tax agents” on federal land.
“The deal with Smoke Signals is that tobacco didn’t have provincial approval and I’m saying: ‘No, we don’t need provincial approval’,” Fontaine said.
The First Nation, located 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, is holding a press conference today at 10 a.m. at the downtown office of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said the incident was not an RCMP raid, regardless of how the First Nation is describing the event.
On Jan. 9, three officers from the local Pine Falls detachment accompanied two provincial tax agents to the smoke shop, Karpish said.
But no criminal charges were laid, Karpish said.
“This is a provincial tax file, not an RCMP file,” Karpish said.
“We were there to maintain the peace. It’s not our investigation,” the RCMP spokeswoman said.
The way tobacco taxes work in Manitoba is straightforward.
The province issues a tax licence to a vendor to collect taxes on tobacco products, which makes the sales legal.
In the case of First Nations, chiefs and councils are the local government so they reach an agreement with Manitoba taxation officials to allow for the sales, along with the smoke shop owner.
And in return, the provinces offers the First Nation a rebate on sales — $35 a carton of cigarettes and 16.5 cents per gram of loose rolling tobacco.
This time Sagkeeng and Smoke Signals shop bypassed the province and didn’t seek a provincial tax licence to sell cigarettes or an agreement for a rebate.
The province responded by sending in tax agents who reportedly seized boxes of cigarettes last week.
Fontaine said the tobacco shop owner didn’t ask the province for a tax licence and the First Nation decided to take the seizures on as a test case to oppose the province for jurisdiction on cigarette sales.
There are nine other outlets on Sagkeeng which sell cigarettes legally and none of those shops are involved in the tobacco tussle with Manitoba tax agents, the chief stressed.
Smoke Signals is a separate issue, Fontaine said.
“This is a jurisdictional issue. It’s a Sagkeeng issue. We issued a licence,” Fontaine said.
Numerous residents of Sagkeeng said they had never heard of the Smoke Signals Smoke Shop when contacted Wednesday evening by the Free Press. The store does not have a listing in a recent version of the Manitoba phone directory.
Fontaine was coy about parallels to southern Ontario where police have conducted periodic raids on smoke shops selling illegal cigarettes on Mohawk First Nations.
“If other First Nations feel they have jurisdictional issues they can support us,” Fontaine said.
alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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