APTN National News
EDMONTON—Alberta authorities have stayed contraband tobacco charges against the former chief of the Montana First Nation.
The Alberta Crown in the case entered the stay against Carolyn Buffalo on Jan. 28, her former lawyer Julian Falconer said.
Buffalo was charged four years ago under the Alberta Tobacco Act after the RCMP and agents with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission seized 16 million cigarettes stored on the Montana First Nation reserve. The federally-licensed cigarettes were shipped by Rainbow Tobacco from Kahnawake, a Mohawk community near Montreal.
Falconer said the Crown did not put any reasons on the record as to why the charges were stayed. He said there were irregularities with the search warrant used to seize the cigarettes.
“It was simply a culmination of a series of mishaps that leads to the inescapable conclusion that this has been a gross waste of taxpayer money,” said Falconer. “It is a lesson in exactly how not to deal with our Aboriginal partners on complex issues that warrant sit down and negotiating rather than using the heavy club of the justice system.”
Falconer said Buffalo “was dealing with a federally licensed enterprise operating out of Kahnawake” that was engaged in trade between First Nations. Falconer said the lead RCMP investigator on the case testified during that trial Buffalo believed she was following the law.
“Instead of accepting this as a complex issue of historical Aboriginal trade on a nation-to-nation basis, the option was to criminalize a law-abiding citizen to basically hamper the ability for First Nations to do business amongst themselves,” said Falconer.
The owner of Rainbow Tobacco, Robbie Dickson, is still facing charges.
Falconer, who represents Dickson “in other jurisdictions,” said he had been advised not to speak to the media about this matter.