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Covenant Chain: Mohawk men in tobacco smuggling case cite treaty, win in Quebec court

MONTREAL — Two Mohawk men from Kahnawake, near Montreal, have been granted a stay of proceedings in a tobacco smuggling case after a judge ruled their treaty rights were infringed. 

Derek White and Hunter Montour were arrested in 2016 as part of a cross-border police operation called Project Mygale in connection with tobacco that was smuggled into Quebec.

Following a trial in 2019, White and Montour were found guilty of criminal offences, including failing to pay taxes on tobbaco products.

But the pair had requested a stay of criminal proceedings, claiming the government had violated their treaty rights and their ancestral rights relating to the tobacco trade.

In a 366-page written decision rendered today, Quebec Superior Court Justice Sophie Bourque concluded that an overarching oral meta-treaty known as the Covenant Chain is binding and guarantees the defedants the right to trade tobbacco.

Bourque ruled that, as a result, the federal Excise Act did not apply against the two men and ordered a stay on the convictions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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