Manitoba raids Dakota smoke shop, seizes Mohawk cigs

It didn’t take long for Manitoba tax authorities to strike.

APTN National News
It didn’t take long for Manitoba tax authorities to strike.

Agents with Manitoba Finance’s special investigations unit along with the RCMP raided a Dakota-run smoke shop Tuesday, seizing 89,550 cigarettes made by a Mohawk tobacco firm that were being sold without a provincial license.

In a brief statement, the department said the Dakota Chundee smoke shop, which was being run by three Dakota First Nations, was raided at about 12:20 p.m. Tuesday.

The seized cigarettes, which were made by Rainbow Tobacco based out of the Mohawk community of Kahnawake near Montreal, were federally licensed, but not stamped for sale in the province.

“The investigation is continuing and charges are pending,” said the statement.

The Dakota’s opened the smoke shop, which sits about 100 kilometres southwest of Brandon, Man., last Wednesday and invited media to attend. There were also plans to open an unlicensed casino alongside the smoke shop.

Canupawakpa Dakota Chief Frank Brown could not be reached for comment.

Rainbow Tobacco president Robbie Dickson could not be reached for comment.

The Dakota hoped to raise much needed revenue through the smoke shop and casino, while also upping the stakes in their court battle with the federal government.

“If they raid us and seize and confiscate and charge, what laws are they using against us,” said Brown in a previous interview. “There is no process with non-treaty in Canada, so what laws are they going to legally use?”

Ottawa considers the Dakota “American Indian refugees” and claims they have no Aboriginal title or rights to territory in Canada.

The case is ongoing in Federal Court.

Manitoba is now the fourth province to have seized Rainbow Tobacco cigarettes, joining  Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Rainbow Tobacco pays federal taxes on each of its cigarettes, but refuses to pay provincial taxes arguing provinces have no jurisdiction to interfere in trade between First Nations communities.

The Assembly of First Nations backs Rainbow Tobacco’s position.

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