Two tobacco farmers from Ontario are set to sue Canadian government over the so-called tobacco shacks, stating both the federal and Ontario governments are showing a blind eye on the sales of smuggled cigarettes.
In the introduced legal action, potential plaintiffs Stanley and Linda Koscik and Weninger Farms Ltd. state that Ottawa government “knowingly and deliberately” didn’t manage to collect taxes from illicit sales of cigarettes.
“The Crown officers have failed to track flagrant infringements of the ban on the sale of smuggled tobacco products and have contributed to open trade in smuggled cigarettes and tobacco products on First Nation reserves by means of illicit shops established off the reserve,” the statement of claim for legal action writes. The compensation that plaintiffs seek to receive is 500 million of Canadian dollars. The allegations have not been found to be proven in court.
Ontario and Quebec are home to nearly 350 illicit smoke outlets, which are making many legal shops – most of them being family-operated businesses – to shut down their businesses, in accordance with the Canadian Association of Convenience Stores (CACS).
Contraband cigarettes generally sell for $11 – $12 for a carton, versus almost $50 per carton of legal cigarettes, stated Michel Gadbois, CACS senior vice-president.
“It’s a complete injustice,” he added. “We have two legislations that do not apply to the same people. If you can’t enforce the ordinance, then you should act.”
Around one-third of all cigarettes sold across Ontario and Quebec are smuggled and counterfeit, Gadbois admitted. “And that makes a $2-billion market controlled directly by criminal organizations. That’s the shocking truth,” he said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) disclosed a progress report last May warning that black-market of tobacco products “continues to being directed by organized crime, undermining Canadian citizens’ expectations of safe environments and economic integrity.”
In 2009, the national police agents confiscated nearly 975,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes throughout Canada, what is higher than 2008’s record of 965,000 cartons and a double increase from the haul the RCMP confiscated in 1994.
Despite the threats related to the black market of tobacco, the Ontario government has done almost nothing to put an end to the spreading of smoke shacks, declared New Democratic Party justice critic Peter Kormos.
“The sales of illegal cigarettes across Ontario are proliferating, it’s notorious, but it’s fact,” he added. “The police officers have failed to enforce the law as it is.”
Ontario Liberal government – which recently filed a lawsuit against biggest tobacco companies over expenses on health care related to smoking – won’t even enforce the law on two smoke shacks that are located on government territory in Caledonia, stated Toby Barrett of Conservative Party.
There’s an opinion that police are simply following government ordinances and turning a blind eye to the illegal activity to avoid a problems with First Nations, he said.
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