Ottawa plans more police, mandatory jail terms in battle against underground tobacco trade
- Ottawa plans more police, mandatory jail terms in battle against underground tobacco trade
NATIONAL NEWS | 05. MAR, 2013 BY APTN NATIONAL NEWS | 0 COMMENTS
APTN National News
OTTAWA-The Conservative government said Tuesday it would create a 50 officer RCMP anti-contraband tobacco force and introduce a new bill to impose mandatory minimum jail terms for repeat offenders involved in the trade.
In a statement, the federal government said the new RCMP force would target "organized crime groups engaged in the production and distribution of contraband tobacco." There were no immediate details available on where the force would be based.
The statement also said the Conservative government would introduce a bill to amend sections of the Criminal Code and impose jail terms on those involved in the black market tobacco trade. Repeat offenders caught transporting more than 10,000 cigarettes or 10 kilograms of tobacco products would face a minimum of 90 days in jail on a second conviction, 180 days on a third conviction and two years less a day on subsequent convictions.
Under the changes, a first conviction could net a maximum 6 month jail term on a summary conviction and a 5 year term if prosecuted on an indictment.
"Tobacco trafficking is a serious threat to the public safety of Canadians, our communities and our economy," said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, in a statement. "Contraband tobacco fuels the growth of organized criminal networks, contributing to the increased availability of illegal drugs and guns in our communities."
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who represents Nunavut, also praised the announcement.
"There is no place for contraband tobacco in our communities and today is an important step in the fight against illegal tobacco," said Aglukkaq.
Much of the underground tobacco trade flows through Akwesasne, a Mohawk community straddling the Canada-U.S. border.
Tobacco was introduced to Europeans through contact with First Nations and many see the tobacco trade as a traditional right.
There have been concerns expressed in Mohawk communities that the RCMP focuses too much on trying to seize cigarettes at the expense of other, more dangerous products like cocaine.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]