Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Ontario First Nation cautions crackdown on contraband tobacco could lead to violence


BRANTFORD, Ont. - An Ontario First Nation has raised the spectre of violence if the government goes ahead with a bill that would crack down on contraband tobacco.


Tobacco is big business in Six Nations, just outside of Brantford, Ontario.

But some of that cigarette trade is not up to snuff, and the First Nation says the government's Bill C-10 appears to be an excuse to bud into its business.

"It's that old great-white-father attitude of 'we know best,'" said Chief Ava Hill, who said First Nations have not been consulted during the process.

If the bill passes, "I can't guarantee that there isn't going to be some violence," Hill said.

"We're hearing about that in the community."

Local MP Phil McColeman has said the government is not targeting legitimate tobacco operations, but only what it considers illegal trade, regardless of where in Canada it's happening.

"I'm not a person who says 'because you live on a First Nation territory you can break the laws of Canada.'"

But even if the government doesn't step into Native territory to enforce such a law, the effects could be crippling for a reserve that counts on visitors from all over southern Ontario buying their tax-free smokes.

"They want to nab people as soon as they leave the territory," Hill said, which undermine the rights and economic development of the First Nation.

Hill said Six Nations is taking its case to the Senate, where hearings are planned this fall.

A delegation intends to explain how Six Nations and other Mohawk nation partners, such as Akwesasne and Kahnawake, are building a free-trade relationship dependent on the free movement of products and people.

Hill is also trying to get a meeting with federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver.

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