Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tobacco sales divide reserve

Dakota Ojibway members clash over shop

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BRANDON -- The Dakota Ojibway Police Service and the organizer of an illegal smoke shop in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation appear to be on another collision course.

"Our members will continue to do their job," Dakota Insp. Marc Saindon said.

Last month, the police service executed a search warrant on a property believed to be selling illegal cut-rate cigarettes on the reserve.

The investigation was started after community members complained about the sale of cigarettes and Saindon said during a raid, officers found close to 35,000 illegal cigarettes with a cash value of more than $9,500.

As a result, two women -- Penny Arlene Antoine and Pamela Blacksmith -- face charges under the Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act.

Craig Blacksmith of the Dakota Plains First Nation told the Brandon Sun in February a temporary shop had been set up to sell cigarettes in Sioux Valley. He said Wednesday the shop is about creating economic development, something the chief and council are opposed to. He also accused the council of using the police service like a secret police force.

Saindon said those accusations have no merit.

"We listen to what the chief and council bring forward, but do we work for chief and council? No we don't," Saindon said. "There is a healthy respect and distance between politics and law enforcement."

Blacksmith said the opposition he faces in the community from the chief and police service is out of "ignorance."

He said he believes the provincial tobacco tax laws give him the right to sell the cigarettes. The law states someone can possess one carton of cigarettes, 200 grams of fine-cut tobacco and 50 cigars or cigarillos: "products that are not marked or stamped for sale in Manitoba when they enter Manitoba from another province or from outside Canada."

"And yet the chief and the police service have posters out telling people that they will be charged and they are harassing community members," Blacksmith said.

Blacksmith said the store belongs to the community and each member of the community may own one carton.

Blacksmith was one of the major players in the Dakota Chundee Smoke Shop and Gaming Centre that opened in November 2011 near Pipestone. The shop was subsequently shut down after a series of raids from provincial investigators, but Blacksmith believes they will never set foot in the new store, which he expects to be finished this month. "Because it's on a reserve."

"The government wants us to be good little Indians, but this is about economic development," Blacksmith said. "We're exercising our sovereignty as Dakota people."

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2013 A8

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