Mohawk police issue $12K in fines over the weekend to Quebeckers trying to buy cigarettes

Police in Kahnawake, Que., issued 12 tickets over the weekend to non-residents attempting to purchase cigarettes in the Mohawk community south of Montreal.

Tobacco shops have been closed since March 21 due to COVID-19 pandemic

Signs across Kahnawake have been put up to notify non-locals that no tobacco products are currently being sold within the community. It was a directive from Kahnawake's COVID-19 task force to limit visitors coming and going from the territory. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

Police in Kahnawake, Que., issued 12 tickets over the weekend to non-residents attempting to purchase cigarettes in the Mohawk community south of Montreal.

The community's COVID-19 task force ordered all tobacco businesses to close on March 21 to minimize traffic from outside the community amid the pandemic.

Signs have been posted in French and English on a number of electronic billboards throughout the territory, and commissioner of public safety Lloyd Phillips said more signs are coming.

"We're trying to protect our community members," said Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers spokesperson Const. Kyle Zachary. 

"That means having to close off the community for a certain time. We're prepared to enforce that to ensure the safety of all of our residents."

The 12 individuals were fined under Section 31 of Kahnawake's Emergency Preparedness Law. Each ticket carries a fine of $1,000 plus court costs. Zachary said with court costs, it comes to around $1,500.

Businesses found in contravention of the Emergency Preparedness Law would face a $10,000 fine.

Multiple residents told CBC News that they've still been encountering people from outside the community driving through the streets in search of open stores, or approaching people out on walks.

"We are getting a lot of calls about non-locals trying to look for cigarettes," said Zachary.

"A lot of the patrol officers frequent those areas anyway and you can tell what a person is looking for by the way they're driving. You can see that they're slowing down at every cigarette store."

Police chief says enforcement will continue

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Chief Tonya Perron said in a statement that "we are doing everything we can to reduce our risk." 

"Some people are still coming into the heart of the community searching for tobacco products – which is unacceptable. We appreciate everyone who has respected our directive during this challenging time."

No fines have been issued to any community members to date, but chief of police Dwayne Zacharie warned members this week that the Peacekeepers will continue to enforce the measures in place.

"We're in a dangerous point here in our community. We want to make sure people are safe and secure, so we need to you to follow these directives," said Zacharie on Monday during Kahnawake's COVID-19 task force's daily briefing. 

"We're still getting lots of calls for people congregating, lots of people going to parks and being really close together. You can't do those things. If we do see you congregating, not respecting social-distancing directives, we will start issuing tickets to locals as well."


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawake, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.