The Regulation of Tobacco Trade in Akwesasne
(Summary of a confidential project)
(A redacted version of the project is available here)
The Akwesasne community has been trading tobacco as a sovereign Nation for centuries. Despite this legacy, in modern times the community has been heavily impacted by the laws of Ontario, Quebec, the state of New York and the United States and Canadian federal governments. Historically, high tobacco taxes by the Canadian provincial and federal governments led Canadians to Indigenous reserves to buy cigarettes, where they were sold tax free. As this industry grew, the provincial and federal governments became concerned about the loss of taxation revenue and the public health impact of cheap cigarettes. Another concern was that organized crime groups were investing in the tobacco trade and using profits from cigarette sales to fund arms smuggling and drug trafficking operations.
Despite these negative effects, the tobacco industry bolstered autonomy for the Mohawk community at Akwesasne; it brought business opportunities, employment, and revenues that funded projects throughout the community. This divergence in perspective between the Akwesasne community and the Canadian authorities has resulted in arrests, incarceration of indigenous citizens, discontent in the community, and an inability of the Nation to fulfill its economic development. However, recent years have brought cooperation among the parties. In 2013, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne entered a funding partnership with Ontario intended to assist the Akwesasne community with its efforts to regulate its tobacco industry, which culminating in the adoption of the Akwesasne Oien:kwa Kaianerenhsera (the Akwesasne Tobacco Law) by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in 2016.
This project focuses on the implementation of the Akwesasne Tobacco Law while situating it within the multi-jurisdictional legal framework described above. This implementation requires the regulation of every segment of the supply chain, including transport, manufacturing, wholesale, retail, and import/export. Specifically, the project develops a draft for a regulation of the transporter segment of the supply chain.
The draft Tobacco Transporter Regulation establishes the administrative framework for tobacco transportation in Akwesasne, including licensing conditions, procedures for the application for and the revocation or surrender of licenses and the procedural rights of license holders. In addition, its provisions address the obligations of transporters engaging in domestic and cross-border trade, such as the posting of a bond. In combination, these elements of the Regulation aim to allow the Mohawk community to govern the tobacco industry according to their objectives and perspectives.
The Tobacco Transporter Regulation generates economic growth for the community by providing simple, transparent rules and low barriers to engage in trade. In addition, the Regulation facilitates oversight which encourages legitimate trade and increases public safety.
While the project addresses only one part of the supply chain by producing a draft of the Tobacco Transporter Regulation, it also lays the groundwork for future teams to continue to assist the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in strengthening the Tobacco Law’s implementation. This current and future expansion helps fulfill Akwesasne’s exercise of its sovereignty over its people, lands, and industries and its inherent right to trade.
A redacted version of the project is available here.