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Letter to RCMP Complaints Commissioner

February 7, 2001

Mrs. Shirley Heafey
Commission for Public Complaints against the R.C.M.P.
60 Queen Street, 3rd floor
Ottawa, ON    K1P 5Y7

Dear Ms. Heafey:

Please accept this letter as a complaint to the RCMP Public Complaints Commission regarding the conduct by the RCMP of its investigations into the smuggling of cigarettes into Canada in the early 1990s.

Our complaint stems from the failure of the RCMP to meet its responsibilities to adequately investigate the contribution of tobacco companies and their senior managers to the widespread exporting and illegal importing of smuggled cigarettes.  

The consequences of unchecked smuggling of tobacco products are well known to Canadians. Indeed, we believe that tobacco smuggling in the early 1990s may well constitute the biggest single case of criminal behaviour in the history of Canadian business and of public health.  Governments were defrauded of billions of dollars in tax revenue; public health was robbed of one of its most effective tobacco control policy measures. In fact, a strong case can be made that thousands of Canadians will die from a tobacco-caused disease as a result of the move to half-price cigarettes in much of the country that was triggered by smuggling activity.

Canadians are also well aware that few smugglers have been brought to justice, and that no senior officials of tobacco companies have been held to account for any responsibility in providing one quarter of Canada's cigarette sales through criminal routes. 

Canadians have not, however, been informed as to why little enforcement action has been taken by the RCMP.  This is especially perplexing in light of the civil suit recently filed by the federal government against RJ Reynolds and the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturer's Council.  Tobacco industry documents recently made public support the view that the highest levels of Canadian tobacco management took actions to support cigarette smuggling.   

The companies now operate under public accusations of complicity in smuggling at the same time that they are implicitly exonerated by the RCMP's failure to lay charges.  This is damaging to the credibility of the RCMP, of the public justice system and of the governance of corporations in Canada

Specifically, we would like the Commission to inquire into the following:

  • Has the RCMP invested adequate resources in investigating tobacco smuggling since 1989 and have these resources been commensurate with the number of victims and the extent of the impact of tobacco smuggling on them?

  • Has the RCMP investigation been influenced by the relationship of tobacco company management with political and social leadership in Canada?  

  • Has the RCMP appropriately invested the additional resources provided to it to combat smuggling following the tax-roll back in February 1994 to investigate cigarette smuggling?

  • Was the RCMP investigation influenced by the relationship of retired senior RCMP inspectors and management with tobacco industry clients?

  • Has the RCMP exercised due diligence at all times in the past decade in investigating tobacco smuggling activities?

  • Have delays in investigating the role of senior tobacco industry officials in tobacco smuggling prejudiced successful prosecutions against them, should charges ever be laid?

 Given the decade which has passed since smuggling was identified by the RCMP as a pressing issue, and the importance of restoring the public health policies undermined by smuggling, we request that this investigation be conducted as quickly as possible.

Garfield Mahood
Executive Director
Non-Smokers' Rights Association

Neil E. Collishaw
Research Director
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

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Chronology of Smuggling