Cigarette Smuggling Out of Control – Kevin Parkinson – Cornwall Ontario – March 31, 2010

Cigarette Smuggling Out of Control

The latest media coverage in the Standard Freeholder concerning the incredible amount of cigarette smuggling through Cornwall and area is both shocking and puzzling, and raises more questions than answers.

We have been told that 90% of illegal cigarettes make it across our border each year, representing 50 million cartons. Cornwall, unwittingly, has become the recipient of these smugglers, who commit crimes as they cross the international border, but our community bears the brunt and the stigma attached to this activity.

My first question is:  Do we know exactly where the cigarettes are coming from?  RCMP Sgt. Michael Harvey has reported that there are 10 cigarette-making factories in New York state.  Do these establishments require permits to set up shop, and if they do, from whom?

With so many shipments coming across the border each day, there must be a few minor traffic jams on Highway 37 in New York, with vehicles loading up with cigarettes each day, and bringing their payload into Canada.  Cars are loading cartons of cigarettes in their back seats in full view. You would have to be blind not to notice.

What’s really going on here?

Secondly, with the advanced technology available today, and satellites capability of reading a licence plate from space, listening devices, surveillance cameras, telephone tapping, advanced communications interception, are we led to believe that the police forces have no way of following trucks and cars that fill their vehicles with cigarettes only a few miles from the border, and then cross the river by boat or at the land crossing on Cornwall Island.  I find this very hard to swallow.

As Harvey explained in last week’s S-F,  existing resources have resulted in stopping 15 loads out of 110, less than 15%.  The problem is not with the police at the local level. Where is the Conservative government leadership here?  MP Guy Lauzon is always talking about how important  ‘law and order’ is to the Conservative party. So, why has the smuggling increased under Lauzon’s watch, so much so that the Conservatives have turned it into a farce?

Meanwhile, lots of smugglers, often young people, are committing criminal acts and are enjoying easy money in a life of crime.  An increase in resources would mean that police could use surveillance and advanced technology for what is intended: to track criminal activity and if we did that, I believe that many smugglers would be driven right into the hands of law enforcement.

Finally, one last question must be asked. Who benefits from the status quo? Who is benefiting from the smuggling proceeds now? Bank accounts usually tell the story and no doubt there are millions of dollars being laundered every day from cigarette smuggling.

Use the Internet and follow the money trail to the top.

Admitting defeat to the smugglers is admitting that there is so much corruption in our system, that we are powerless to prevent it. Do you think that is true?

Either the governments lower excessive taxes and eliminate the smuggling that way, or they step up law enforcement efforts to curb cigarette smuggling before violence begins, in which case Cornwall and area would be adversely affected.

We are already looked upon as “the cigarette smuggling capital of Canada.” That reputation really illustrates just how bad the problem is.

Maintaining the status quo is not an option. Cigarette smuggling is out of control.


We need to act now.

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)

please visit our sponsors:


  1. News articles on the cost of tobacco smuggling peg the cost to government loss of revenue, provincial and federal at about two billion dollars for the area of Ontario and Quebec. The recent opening of a new building in Cornwall at a cost of millions I compare to the most recent acquisition by the RCMP of two new boats. They probably needed a new building, given their previous circumstance, the officers out on patrol would be my first choice for properly funding for numbers and equipment. See attached article by Senator Colin Kenny.

    Bill C-60 has my ire up for a different reason than you have found. It leaves out the officers of CBSA (Customs). You should note that is the responsibility of the CBSA under the Customs Act to perform border patrols. This responsibility has been given over to the RCMP by a Memorandum of Understanding and funding by way of transfer from the CBSA to the RCMP of an annual 450 million dollars ( as best as I can determine from the deliberately crappy fed website). I have a poor opinion of how this money is utilized. You may be interested in the history of how the Customs Preventative Service, armed and equipped for land and maritime patrol was disbanded during the Customs scandal of 1926 and the ensuing Byng-King affair. It is what happened when the ordinary officers of Customs implicate the minister and deputy minister of Customs in organized smuggling.

    Keep up the good articles for the Cornwall Free news, I appreciate them.


    The Canada-U.S. Border: Time to Smarten Up.
    Embassy – October 21, 2009
    By Colin Kenny

    Many Canadians are voicing annoyance at the approach the United States is taking to security at the U.S.-Canadian border, including aerial surveillance along the border and more rigorous checks at border crossings.
    I believe we have good reason to be annoyed about the thickening of the border. But I don’t think the answer is to get angry about Washington’s fixation with security on all its borders, including its border with Canada. In fact, I think we Canadians should smarten up and join the U.S. effort to better police the Canada-U.S. border.
    Allow me to explain why I think we should at the same time be annoyed at the Americans, yet more eager to join them in policing the border.
    Our annoyance is justified because NAFTA was designed to integrate the economies of the two countries. Smooth and timely crossings for truckers and law-abiding citizens are essential to that integration, and border delays wound the smaller Canadian economy much more than they hurt the Americans.
    I have long suspected that many American politicians are delighted at the thickening of the border, pleased to use border delays as non-tariff barriers blocking imports from Canada.
    Not so long ago Industry Canada was promoting Canada as a smart place for international companies to invest, in part because of our lower production costs and the lower value of the Canadian dollar, but mostly because of timely and unimpeded access to U.S. markets. That’s not an easy argument to make these days.
    So, how much motivation do U.S. politicians and administrators have to speed things up at border crossings? Not much. Of course the holdups are a bother to U.S. companies with integrated production facilities north and south of the border. But if that prompts these companies to move all their facilities south of the border . . . well, that would be just dandy in the eyes of most Americans, wouldn’t it?
    Frankly, it’s not going to ease the constipation at Canada-U.S. border crossings. But I think we have to start by taking the genuine concerns of the Americans regarding border security into account, and then cooperating with them to reduce their anxiety.
    And there are legitimate concerns. The Americans are worried about terrorists, and they’re worried about drugs from Mexico and Canada making their way into their country. Canadians are worried about handguns and criminals crossing our borders with relative impunity.
    U.S. Homeland Security has a fleet of armed ships and helicopters patrolling the Great Lakes, and are working toward having a network of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) feeding them information on the movement of vessels in waters between the two countries.
    The Americans have 2,200 Coast Guard officers patrolling border waters between the two countries, and large numbers of other types of security personnel. At last count Canada had 21 Mounties patrolling border waters in boats that aren’t up to the job, plus a small core group of 173 people who work across the country with the Americans on Inter-Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs).
    IBETs allow Canadian and American forces to work in tandem on border policing. They let them plan joint operations that will often succeed when operating in isolation on either side of the border doesn’t work – in isolated operations criminals working on the lakes and rivers know they’re safe once they cross the line that separates the two countries.
    IBET activities have been stuttering due to jurisdictional wrangling over whether officers can carry guns and make arrests on the other side’s territory. These legalities can and must be overcome.
    The Shiprider program showed great promise. In a pilot project two years ago Canadian and U.S. officers worked as teams on boats on the Great Lakes. Shiprider will be revived on the B.C.-Washington border during the Olympics. If the two sides find a protocol for operating together on water, that would provide momentum toward allowing IBETs to do the same thing on land.
    Canada should move toward complete radar coverage of the border waters that it shares with the United States. That would assist in detecting anomalies in ship movements, identification of those vessels and eventual interdiction. Surveillance by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would also strengthen security. UAVs can identify an assault weapon from 60,000 feet up. UAVs are cheaper than helicopters and can remain in place for a much longer time.
    At border crossings, Canada has finally started to arm border security officers. The last statistics provided to the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence in 2007 (before border security officers could carry weapons) showed that 459 vehicles crashed the Canadian border during a six-month period. Why not just put out a sign welcoming U.S. handguns?
    Freight being transported over the border should be scanned on the Canadian side through the use of Vacus gamma ray inspection machines. The Americans have installed these machines on a permanent basis at every major border crossing. Canada attempts to move a few machines from crossing to crossing at times that are predictable to criminals. One or two of the machines are almost always in for repair, which makes our electronic surveillance system virtually useless. We need a permanent system.
    The Canadian Border Services Agency needs additional personnel and facilities to provide proper firearms training while keeping crossings fully staffed. Our committee estimates that the Agency needs 2,300 additional employees to carry out their responsibilities at 1,200 border crossings and other ports of entry into Canada.
    The current government has only committed to funding enough new officers to ensure that every crossing is staffed by two people. Good, but not good enough.
    If we Canadians start taking border security more seriously, will Washington to take our concerns about border thickening more seriously? We can’t be sure, but it is encouraging that the Obama administration has shown much more interest in international cooperation than the Bush administration did.
    Once Canada begins pulling its weight on security, Ottawa can negotiate with the Americans on more efficient ways of moving traffic at crossings. We should try to come to a results-based agreement: both sides would ensure that they were providing the personnel, infrastructure and systems needed to ensure that a given number of vehicles get through in an hour. If either side wants to be more meticulous with its searches, that’s all to the good, but that would mean putting more officers on the lines to ensure a timely flow.
    Being annoyed at the Americans is a waste of time. Providing carrots to change their ways of doing things would be very timely indeed.

    [Colin Kenny is Chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.]

  2. So what do we do, stop every boat, truck and car at various crossroads around the city?
    The US and Canadian governments need to enforce the same conditions. The governement will do something if enough people ask, but too many are using the products and do not want to affect their own wallet.

    As Admin said in a different posting, follow the money, or in this case, trace back where the smokes come from. If it is a legal manufacturing business, fine them if cigaretts get stolen or are redirected, and change will happen. The fine has to be higher that the gain.

  3. Good article from Colin Kenny, but as usual Canada is “cheaping-out” on their responsibilities!

  4. Note the latest slide by CBSA announcing today an “Akwesasne only” lane at the Cornwall port of entry.

  5. Author

    Sigfus methinks this is simply the first step in moving back to the Island. 🙂

  6. The Americans spend well over 20 billion dollars a year on the war on drugs, while Canada spends around 1 billion. And what has that achieved? A massive increase in drug consumption. Spending more money on securing the borders and tracking smugglers is futile.

    It’s called “supply and demand” people, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Where there is a need for a product, it will be made available. When you shut down a smuggling ring, it does not take long for some other entrepreneur to realize an oppotunity and make a move. It’s just business. We went through a big boom in smuggling some 15-20 years ago now, and one thing stopped it: the Ontario government lowered the taxes on cigarrettes, and smuggling (cigarrettes) vanished. Steal the profit and shut them down.

    Cops can’t stop smuggling. Cops can’t stop the drug trade. It’s just business.

  7. Rodney, If it only saves one old hippie from continuing along the evil road of marijuana
    addiction, it will be worth every penny.

  8. “moving back to the island” ? May you live in interesting times.

  9. One stick of marijuana and life is over. Anyone who smokes pot is 100% incapable of driving, showing up to work, dealing with kids, doing complicated tasks, creating art or making decisions. As proof I offer that medical staff, city staff, media, lawyers and teachers never get arrested for pot use.

  10. Life of the party, In all seriousness, I know all kinds of successful, productive people who enjoy the odd smoke of the evil weed. They include teachers, nurses, writers, musicians, computer programmers, lawyers, etc. I, myself would never consider consider trying it, but that’s my choice.

  11. It’s ironic that a variety store in the East End should lose its tobacco license yesterday as punishment for an infraction because it’s now that much harder and longer walk to try and find a legal tobacco outlet. It’s hard to find legal smokes in Cornwall, much harder than anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s very difficult to find pouch tobacco and papers in Cornwall.

  12. Pouch Tobacco Guy, you can buy all kinds of pouch tobacco and papers at Carl’s Smoke Shop
    at 272 Pitt Street in Cornwall.

  13. Stan, that would defeat the purpose. Pouch Tobacco Guy seems to be annoyed at having to walk all the way from the east end to the west almost to get a pack of smokes or pouch tobacco. But yes, I believe Carl’s does offer those items. The pouch tobacco may possibly only be available now at GT though.

Leave a Reply