The seizure of 100 cartons of cigarettes by the Saskatchewan government will not stop plans to expand into western Canada, the owner of a Quebec-based, First Nations tobacco company says.
"These are just a few stumbling blocks, but we're not stopping," said Rob Dickson of Rainbow Tobacco Company, which is based on the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve in Quebec.
Provincial officials seized Rainbow Tobacco cigarettes at a courier depot because no provincial tax — $42 per carton — had been paid on them.
According to Dickson, the cigarettes were intended as gifts to First Nations people as the company continues to try to gain a foothold in the west.
"That was a gift, and I think [the seizure] was completely illegal on behalf of the provincial ministry. I believe that they don't have jurisdiction on First Nations territories," he said.
The cigarettes had been supposed to go to Cheryl Maurice, a member of the English River First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, Dickson said.
"In our eyes, everything we're doing is legal. We're federally governed and we're complying with all federal regulations, and now the province, who has no jurisdiction, is coming in and saying it's illegal," he said.
According to Dickson, the company has ambitious plans to set up a warehouse in western Canada for distribution to reserves in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.
Last month, 75,000 Rainbow Tobacco cartons were seized from a reserve in Alberta. Dickson said his company wants to get those cigarettes back.