$476,115 Two-Year Project will regulate tobacco at Akwesasne
CFN – The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne announced today that it received a $476,115 two-year grant from the Government of Ontario to support the development of an Akwesasne Tobacco Law and Regulatory Framework. The “Akwesasne Tobacco Pilot Project” is one of two First Nation projects in the province.
“The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has been working with the Government of Ontario for the past year to build a more cooperative relationship around common interests,” stated Grand Chief Mike K. Mitchell. “Addressing tobacco concerns in a respectful and fair manner has been one of those areas we have been working on,” he added.
In September 2012, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Government of Ontario created the Akwesasne Tobacco Technical Table to bring senior political and operational/administrative representatives of Ontario together with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to address topics and issues of concern in regards to tobacco and the multi-jurisdictional nature of the Akwesasne community. That effort led to the funding of the Akwesasne Tobacco Pilot Project by the Government of Ontario.
The Akwesasne Tobacco Pilot Project will result in Akwesasne regulating the manufacture, wholesale, and retail sale of tobacco products in its territory. It is hoped that it will lead to tobacco trade agreements between Akwesasne and other First Nations and allow for revenue generation from tobacco sales to be used by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to fund government services and economic development activities in the community. The funding of the Tobacco Pilot Project also helps recognize Akwesasne’s law making power and authority.
“We have stated and continue to say that the ultimate solution to deal with contraband tobacco is not with harsher sentences or another layer of law enforcement around our community,” stated Kawehno:ke District Chief Brian David. “It is by identifying common goals and developing respectful relationships through political protocols and other agreements that resolution of tobacco concerns can best be addressed” he added.
This was the message that Chief David delivered in his May 1 testimony to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in regards to Bill S-16, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Trafficking in Contraband Tobacco). While the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has been working cooperatively with the Government of Ontario on tobacco issues, the same cannot be said for the Federal Government as the Akwesasne community was not consulted in the drafting of the federal legislation in the Senate.
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is hoping to build off its efforts with the Government of Ontario and to reach a similar agreement with the Government of Quebec. It also welcomes the opportunity to engage the Federal Government in its efforts to find mutually beneficial solutions to tobacco concerns.
“We are committed to building a legal economy for the Akwesasne community as part of our strategy to address tobacco concerns,” stated Grand Chief Mitchell. “We have to manage the tobacco industry while developing other forms of economic development that will generate a positive economy,” he concluded.