Julie Horbal (Winnipeg Sun) – Canada’s national aboriginal leader has added fuel to the fire that has grown out of a Manitoba band’s attack on the RCMP.
Chief Phil Fontaine yesterday publicly stated he supports the Sagkeeng First Nation and suggested an “excessive amount of force” was shown by officers during a Jan. 9 raid and seizure at an apparently illegal smoke shop on the reserve.
“I just wonder why they came with such a huge force to one retail outlet,” Phil Fontaine said at a press conference yesterday held by Sagkeeng Chief Donavan Fontaine.
“We have a protocol in place with the RCMP. This is not what was contemplated when we signed … Clearly this is highly disrespectful and uncalled for.”
Donavan Fontaine claimed 16 RCMP officers attended the Smoke Signals Smoke Shop with members of the provincial tax agency, who seized some 1,500 cartons of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Provincial officials temporarily shut down the store, which does not have a provincial tobacco license.
A spokesperson for the provincial taxation department said the band-issued tobacco license the store held isn’t valid — which means all product sold at the store is “illicit” under provincial law.
Fontaine wouldn’t comment on the legality of the cigarettes but maintained the RCMP overstepped its bounds by showing up. He said an alleged claim the shop potentially housed weapons was a “smoke screen” used to justify undue and inappropriate force.
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said the reason Powerview officers — four, not 16 as Fontaine suggested — attended the scene was to maintain the peace.
“The execution of search warrants in general is a high-risk activity,” she said. “We treat ‘em all the same, we treat them all as high-risk calls. Every one of them has the potential to get dangerous.”
Karpish said one officer from the Powerview detachment went into the shop while “taxation folks” conducted a “lawful execution” of the warrant.