Contraband Tobacco Spreading Across Canada, Forcing Law Abiding Store Owners Out of Business and Costing Government Billions
TORONTO, Sept. 18, 2019 /CNW/ - The United Korean Commerce Industry Association of Canada (UKCIA), representing more than 2000 independent convenience store operators across the country, is demanding leadership from the party leaders in the federal election to stand up to organized crime in Canada.
The UKCIA was formed in 2017 by consolidating the interests of provincial groups in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. Many Korean Canadians immigrated to Canada for a better life, and owning a small business was their path to provide for their families and give back to their local communities. Unfortunately, due to the rampant growth of illicit tobacco trafficked across the country, store owners are seeing their dreams crushed.
It is estimated that governments across the country are losing billions of dollars to the contraband tobacco market every year. RCMP have repeatedly reported that more than 150 different organized crime groups profit from the trade of illegal, untaxed and unregulated tobacco. In addition to threatening the livelihood of law-abiding small business owners and robbing government treasuries, contraband tobacco is increasingly available to minors and routinely sold without health warnings. Contraband tobacco traffickers have also been linked to illegal narcotics, illegal guns and even human trafficking.
"Over the past decade, hundreds of small businesses, our members, have closed their doors permanently. Our members know that the retail landscape is evolving, and they work hard to stay in business, but it is frustrating when your customers tell you how readily available illegal tobacco is today," says UKCIA spokesperson Kenny Shim. "Our members play by the rules and do everything required as licensed tobacco retailers. It's demoralizing to watch organized crime groups thrive while our members suffer. It's not right and it's not fair. The next government needs to address this problem seriously. They can't keep sticking their heads in the sand pretending it isn't happening," added Shim.
Both the Federal and Ontario Governments appear to be tolerating this incredible situation adversely impacting convenience, robbing public finance and threatening community safety while being counterproductive to established health policies regarding tobacco control. With no enforcement action taken against the illegal factories – many of which operate in plain sight –despite clearly documented violations of the laws in Canada and abroad it leads to the perception that Canada's illegal tobacco problem is effectively "state-sponsored."
The UKCIA and their provincial affiliates will be writing each federal party leader to request their commitment to tackle this growing problem in Canada. In addition, the organization is encouraging and assisting its members to talk to federal candidates running in their local ridings.
SOURCE Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association
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