Dakota First Nations will flout the law Wednesday by selling cigarettes for under half the normal retail price in Manitoba. Great Buffalo Nation Dakota, an alliance of about 10 Dakota nations in the Prairie provinces, will sell cigarettes for $40 a carton. For sale are Wolf Pack and Deerfield brand cigarettes from Mohawk distributors in Quebec.
The Dakota nations are also opening an unlicensed VLT gaming centre. The grand opening at noon Wednesday of its VLT lounge and Dakota Chundee Smoke Shop will feature a Texas hold ’em poker tournament. The commercial enterprise is open to anyone.
“We’re trying to generate revenue to sustain our people,” said Chief Frank Brown of Canupawakpa First Nation, which is spearheading the venture.
The reserve and commercial enterprise is about 100 kilometres southwest of Brandon, Man., at the junction of Highways 2 and 83.
Both the provincial government and RCMP are monitoring the situation. “They (Dakota leaders) have been making a lot of media comments but we don’t guide our actions by media comments,” said RCMP spokeswoman, Sgt. Line Karpish.
The Dakota bands say they are trying to provoke a legal confrontation with the province.
Brown contends Canupawakpa First Nation is an independent sovereign nation and not subject to Manitoba laws. Sioux nations inside Manitoba do not have a treaty with Canada and do not share the same treaty rights as other First Nations.
So three Sioux nations — the Sioux Valley and Dakota Plains, in addition to the Canupawakpa — have filed a claim in federal court against the federal government, claiming they do have treaty rights. They argue that until Ottawa grants them treaty status, they are sovereign nations who can operate outside the law.
Brown said the smoke shop and gaming centre are designed to speed up a legal decision. He said the federal government is stalling its case in federal court.
“No, I don’t,” Brown responded, when asked if he expects the provincial government to let him operate outside the law. “But the thing is, we need justice.” Brown was arrested for illegally selling cheap Esse cigarettes in 2009 but the charges were dropped, he said.
The province has met with Brown to discuss compliance with the Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act.
“We expect Mr. Brown to follow the law and regulations in this private venture, just like everyone else, including applying for a tobacco licence, purchasing tobacco from a licensed wholesaler and remitting taxes to the government,” a provincial spokeswoman said.
Gaming can only occur in licensed gaming establishments under legislative and regulatory authority established by the Criminal Code (Canada), The Gaming Control Act, The Manitoba Lotteries Corporation Act and accompanying regulations.
The distribution of tobacco is regulated both for public health reasons and tax administration purposes. The Tobacco Tax Act applies provincewide and prohibits the sale of non-Manitoba-marked products. This includes tobacco sales on- and off-reserve, as well as by aboriginal-owned or non-aboriginal-owned businesses.