Manitoba Dakota Chundee Smokes Raids Latest in Growing Tobacco War


Manitoba authorities are stepping up efforts to halt sales of cigarettes that are federally labeled but not marked for purchase in the province. Having conducted three raids in five weeks at the end of 2011, Manitoba has followed Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan in cracking down on what they deem contraband.

But the proprietors of the Dakota Chundee Smoke Shop, 30 kilometers from the Saskatchewan border in Manitoba, are fighting back. The focus of all three of the recent raids, the owners want to make a legal case for their right to sell the cigarettes.

Dakota Plains Chief Orville Smoke hopes to argue in court that the Dakota Chundee shop sits on sovereign land. Run by the Dakota Plains, Sioux Valley and Canupawakpa First Nations, the store occupies four acres that the Dakota bought two years ago. This land is covered by Treaty 2, which the Dakota did not sign. That means, Smoke told the National Post in November, that “our sovereignties and our jurisdictions are intact.”

However, Ottawa does not legally recognize the sovereignty of the Dakota tribe. According to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, the federal government calls them merely “American Indian refugees” without legal standing.

Further complicating the issue is the matter of taxation. Rainbow pays federal taxes, then stocks stores set up on First Nations lands that it claims are under federal jurisdiction. Because the Kahnawake, Quebec–based Rainbow Tobacco Co., the cigarettes' manufacturer, is federally licensed, Ottawa considers the conflict to be between Manitoba and the First Nations in question. The province concurs, claiming jurisdiction over cigarette sales anywhere in its borders. By contrast, the First Nations argue that this is a federal issue.

In its November searches and seizures at Dakota Chundee, Manitoba arrested five people and charged them with 28 violations of the Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act. The raids netted more than 100,000 contraband cigarettes. The province said that it seized 156 additional cartons in December.