Manitoba takes fight with native smoke shop to Facebook
The Manitoba government is trying to crack down on an illegal First Nations smoke shop, in part by preventing people from using Facebook or other websites to promote it.
The province is asking the Court of Queen's Bench to impose an injunction stopping the Dakota Chundee Smoke Shop, located near Pipestone, Man., from selling untaxed cigarettes.
The government's motion, filed last Monday, asks the court to order Dakota Chundee's operators to stop advertising the smoke shop, even online.
"The defendants shall remove any and all existing advertisements, publications or promotions of tobacco sales, wherever located, including for greater certainty any website or Facebook webpage which promotes the sale of tobacco," the proposed order states in part.
The province wants that order imposed on "anyone directly or indirectly employed or engaged, or otherwise assisting, the defendants," according to the court document.
Craig Blacksmith, who works with the First Nations that own the smoke shop, told CBC News the proposed injunction would prevent him from "talking up" the shop on Facebook.
Such a move not only restricts his freedom of speech, but is also impractical, he argued.
"Well, I'd like to see them enforce it," Blacksmith said in an interview.
"I have friends in overseas … in Australia and New Zealand," he added. "What are they going to do? Go to New Zealand and arrest somebody? That's how ridiculous it is."
The Dakota Chundee Smoke Shop, which is owned by leaders from the Dakota Plains and Canupawakpa First Nations, has been raided at least four times since it opened Nov. 9 on off-reserve land 80 kilometres southwest of Brandon.
Most recently, on March 6, the province confiscated about $10,000 worth of Mohawk cigarettes.
The smoke shop's operators face charges under the Tobacco Tax Act and the Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act.
However, those charges have not yet been heard in court.
Order may not be upheld, says researcher
The illegal shop was opened in part to generate revenue for the First Nations' members, but also to draw attention to the Canupawakpa First Nation's court battle with the federal government to get treaty status.
Dan Grice, who researches social networking and the law at the University of Manitoba, said the court may not uphold the province's order.
"The question could be is this advertising, or is this discussing a political issue that's relevant?" Grice said.
The province argues that it wants to stop any advertising of illegal tobacco sales.
A date has yet to be set for the motion to be heard in court.
In the meantime, Blacksmith said he is letting his Facebook friends know about the proposed injunction.