First Nations smoke shop ordered taken over by province

A court order issued on Monday is allowing the Manitoba government to take ownership of a controversial First Nations smoke shop.

A court order issued on Monday is allowing the Manitoba government to take ownership of a controversial First Nations-owned smoke shop.

Canupawakpa Dakota Chief Franklin Brown was also fined $10,000 after being found in contempt of court for continuing to operate the Dakota Chundee smoke shop after it was ordered to shut down in May.

Garth Blacksmith, a band member from the Dakota Plains First Nation, was fined $1,500.

Both men say they refuse to pay the fines and walked out of Monday's court hearing before it ended.

The Dakota Chundee shop, located on off-reserve land about 80 kilometres southwest of Brandon, near Pipestone, Man., has been selling untaxed cigarettes without a licence since it opened on Nov. 9, 2011.

Without government taxes on them, the cigarettes have been sold for less than half the typical price.

The province has tried to shut the shop down, raiding it and seizing the stock on several occasions.

And in June, the eight Dakota Plains and Canupawakpa First Nations that have operated the store were served with a court injunction ordering its closure while a judge heard the province's case against them.

First Nations vow to keep shop open

However, they continued to flout the order — and say they will continue to do so.

Brown and Blacksmith told CBC News they intend to keep the shop open and will reopen it if it gets shut down.

In a statement, the provincial government says Monday's court ruling "further validates our position that the possession and sale of non-Manitoba 'marked' tobacco products are illegal, as specified under the provisions of the Tobacco Tax Act.

"The Act applies to all tobacco sales on- and off-reserve, by both Aboriginal owned and non-Aboriginal owned businesses," the province's statement adds.

"The court has authorized Manitoba Sheriff Services to close and take possession of the shop. They will be working in concert with Finance officials and the RCMP on this aspect of the matter."

The store was first opened in part to draw attention to the Canupawakpa First Nation's court battle with the federal government over treaty status, Brown has said.

Brown said the Dakota people don't fall under provincial jurisdiction and they should be allowed to operate under their own laws.

"If they want to take it without having no jurisdictions over it, they can do so, but the consequences [are] to come later," he said outside court on Monday.

Brown and Blacksmith say they plan to hire an international lawyer to continue their fight.