Contraband tobacco crackdown demanded

Contraband tobacco is still a big problem in Canada, says a group partly funded by businesses that make or sell cigarettes. Despite new powers given police to crack down on contraband dealers, sales of bootleg smokes are on the rise in Atlantic Canada, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco said Tuesday at an Ottawa news conference.

OTTAWA — Contraband tobacco is still a big problem in Canada, says a group partly funded by businesses that make or sell cigarettes.

Despite new powers given police to crack down on contraband dealers, sales of bootleg smokes are on the rise in Atlantic Canada, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco said Tuesday at an Ottawa news conference.

The coalition said criminal organizations in Ontario and Quebec have also adapted to new laws designed to curb the problem.

“The Canadian, Ontario and Quebec governments have all given police new powers to investigate and charge those that traffic in the trade,” said coalition spokesman Gary Grant.

“But the illegal cigarette industry continues to evolve to compensate.”

The coalition, which is backed by convenience stores, retailers, tobacco manufacturers and growers, among others, says it’s awaiting an extensive anti-contraband report from the RCMP.

That report, reviewing the state of contraband since 2008, was expected to be released by the end of last year. In the absence of concrete data from the Mounties, however, the coalition said contraband smuggling and production is on the rise in the Atlantic provinces, while some reductions have been seen in Quebec.

“We use our sources and all our colleagues (to gather information), including the RCMP, which are still effective in providing statistics,” said Grant.

A Senate committee will review legislation Wednesday, which was introduced by the Conservatives in March, to toughen penalties for selling contraband tobacco.

Bill S-16 would set mandatory minimum sentences for anyone convicted of trafficking in contraband tobacco under a new Criminal Code offence. If it becomes law, it would also create a new, 50-member, RCMP anti-contraband force.

The aim of the force, is to have a “measurable impact” on reducing contraband tobacco and combating organized crime networks, the government said when the legislation was introduced.

The maximum penalty for a first offence would be six months imprisonment for a summary conviction and up to five years for an indictable offence.

But police need even more powers to combat the contraband trade, said Grant.

The coalition also urged all levels of government to find ways of co-operating with First Nation communities to tackle the problem, accusing “criminals” in aboriginal communities of harming their own people.

Critics, however, say the proposed law has nothing to do with preventing health problems related to smoking and everything to do with the revenue lost by businesses and governments through the contraband trade.

Last week, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne said it received a $476,115, two-year grant from the Ontario government to better regulate tobacco production.

“The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has been working with the government of Ontario for the past year to build a more co-operative relationship around common interests,” said Grand Chief Mike Mitchell.

But the council complained that it was not consulted by Ottawa before Bill S-16 was drafted.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canopy Growth Corp. will deepen its U.S. presence by launching four sparkling cannabidiol waters, shown in a handout photo, there before possible federal legalization. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canopy Growth
Canopy Growth launches first CBD drinks in U.S. as legalization talk intensifies

Quatreau sparkling waters will be sold through e-commerce

A nurse assistant prepares a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 during a priority vaccination program for health workers at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andre Penner
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 needs better promotion: experts

National Advisory Committee on Immunization makes recommendations

A man receives his COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Olympic Stadium marking the beginning of mass vaccination in the Province of Quebec based on age in Montreal, on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Most Canadians confident federal vaccine rollout is back on track: poll

Fifty-six per cent of respondents confident in vaccine supply

Air Transat and Air Canada aircraft are seen on the tarmac at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
International air travel a fraction of pre-pandemic times

International air travel during pandemic less than a 10th of what it was before COVID-19

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2020, file photo, former NBA player Shaquille O’ Neal is interviewed on the red carpet for Shaq’s Fun House in Miami. O’Neal is set to perform in his first competitive match when he teams in All Elite Wrestling with Jade Cargill in a mixed tag to take on Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet at Daily’s Place on an episode of “Dynamite,” Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Shaq Attack: O’Neal ready to rumble in tag match for AEW

O’Neal’s first competitive match with All Elite Wrestling

Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto, center, speaks during a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)
Tokyo Olympics add 12 women to executive board to reach 42 per cent

Board will now have 19 women among its 45 members

The Stratford Festival’s Festival Theatre is shown in Stratford, Ont., on May 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins
Stratford Festival plans next stages with two outdoor summer venues

Ontario festival productions set for between late June and the end of September

Treena Mielke
From record player to CD

When I first began dating my husband, he drove a little old… Continue reading

Opinion
Ottawa banks on Big Pharma making Canada pandemic-proof

Liberal fireball François-Philippe Champagne may be brand new to his portfolio as… Continue reading

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones
Health: Keep blood pressure under control

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the things you think you… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly (44) reach for the rebound from Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson (30) during second-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 1, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Most Read