Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Judge awards smoke shop to province

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THEY showed up at the downtown courthouse on horseback vowing to fight -- only to be trampled by an unusual court ruling that rips away a major source of revenue.

Queen's Bench Justice Brenda Keyser lowered the boom Monday, finding two members of a First Nations community in contempt of court for continuing to operate the Chundee Smoke Shop near Pipestone in the southwest part of the province.

Canupawakpa Chief Frank Brown was fined $10,000, while band member Garth Blacksmith was given a $1,500 penalty.

Keyser endorsed a motion Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan filed last month that states Brown and Blacksmith operated the business contrary to an injunction she ordered on May 30. As a result, Keyser ruled the provincial government would take control of the property.

But proponents of the smoke shop say the battle is far from over.

"I'm not going to pay it. They can throw me in jail," a defiant Brown told the Free Press outside court.

He walked out of court before Keyser made her ruling and vowed to hire an "international lawyer" and step up the fight, suggesting he may seek an injunction of his own against the government.

"I will proceed as a sovereign nation. This is a rights issue," he said. Brown, along with several other members of the Dakota, made a grand entrance Monday by arriving at the Law Courts on horseback.

A third accused, Dakota Plains Chief Orville Smoke, was spared any sanctions after announcing he no longer wants to be associated with the business. He pledged to remove him name from the title. "I'm not radical by any means. At this point in time I'm basically on my own here," Smoke told court.

He said he got involved to bring attention to the financial plight of his people.

"My people are dying," said Smoke. "I just can't seem to make that one grasp of economic development to support my people."

Swan called Keyser's decision "rather unique" but would not comment on what the province would do with the building.

"We haven't made any sound decisions on what the use will be," Swan said Monday afternoon.

"For right now, the main thing is that we'll take steps to make sure the smoke shop is permanently closed. Our priority is just making sure there is compliance with the court order and the judge's further decision today will make that easier."

Since opening a year ago, Manitoba Finance officers and members of the RCMP have conducted five raids at the Chundee shop and confiscated thousands of cut-rate Mohawk cigarettes.

Following each raid, the business has restocked its shelves and reopened. The store is selling cigarettes without a provincial licence and it does not remit taxes to the province.

Proponents say the store is an attempt to exercise Dakota sovereignty in Canada. The Dakota have a history that predates Confederation in Western Canada but no treaty recognizing them.


-- with files from Bruce Owen


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2012 0

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