Although he admits the problem hasn’t been eradicated, the outgoing Cornwall Regional Task Force (CRTF) commander feels the agency has made inroads in curtailing smuggling in the area since it was reborn five years ago.
“When it was resurrected back in 2010, there were numerous complaints to the OPP about suspected smugglers trespassing on people’s docks and on properties on Highway 2. And since then, the OPP receives very minimal complaints about things like that,” RCMP Insp. Tim Kimpan, who is retiring in mid-March after a 33year law enforcement career, told The News last week. “We have succeeded, over the past five years, in displacement. I wouldn’t say that we’ve eliminated smuggling... but, for our territory, at least, things seem to have been corrected a bit.”
Insp. Kimpan added that smuggling in neighbouring Québec “seems to have increased” due to CRTF efforts in and around Cornwall and South Glengarry that have forced smugglers to conduct their illicit trade further eastward.
The CRTF, a partnership that includes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Cornwall Community Police Service (CCPS), Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service (AMPS) and the Ontario Ministry of Finance, was resuscitated in April 2010 to address an intensification of contraband tobacco smuggling and a surge in related public safety issues and residential property concerns in Cornwall and South Glengarry.
According to RCMP statistics at that time, 240,000 cartons of smuggled cigarettes were crossing into Canada through the Seaway City and nearby locales each day, with just over 100,000 of those coming by boat and 137,500 being smuggled by motor vehicle.
Insp. Kimpan was asked if these numbers have dropped since then. “I wouldn’t say that they have decreased. It’s just that they’re going somewhere else (further east),” he said.
“We seem to be seizing more fine-cut tobacco now than cigarettes. I’m thinking that (produc- ers in) Kahnawake are looking for some tobacco to manufacture cigarettes, as opposed to having the manufacturers making them and then smuggling and distributing them here.”
The task force was created in 1993 when high taxes on tobacco led to a period of contraband smuggling and related violence that prompted former Cornwall mayor Ron Martelle, whose life was allegedly threatened by smugglers on several occasions, to refer to Cornwall as “Dodge City” in an interview with The New York Times.
At that time, the OPP estimated that 50,000 cartons of illegal cigarettes were being smuggled into Canada each day near and in Cornwall.
The problem subsided after both senior levels of government lowered tobacco taxes in 1996, decreasing the demand for illegal cigarettes and consequently, the volume of contraband.
That led to the disbandment of the CRTF in 2000. However, a decade later, the problem had resurfaced, with the demand for illegal smokes at an all-time high, leading to the resumption of the task force in April 2010.
Insp. Kimpan feels the organization has done an admirable job since its return five years ago.
“I would say that the CRTF has had a significant impact, and not only with tobacco,” he said.
“There are other crimes in our area too, like human smuggling, which are, with our American partners, being looked at. So it’s not only about cigarettes. There are other commodities too that are of great importance in our mandate.”
He added that the public’s participation has been essential to the CRTF’s success.
Help from public is vital
“We don’t get as much (participation) as we’d like, but what we get has definitely helped,” explained Insp. Kimpan.
“Receiving intel and information helps us focus on our enforcement strategy. “For example, if people call us and say, ‘Well, I see a lot of snowmobiles these days, out on the ice, pulling sleds across the (St. Lawrence) river at night with no lights, and these are the times and places where we see them...’ then we will go set up in those areas, and sometimes we’re fruitful.”
As for the 62-year-old – whose career has included postings at the Mounties’ Ottawa National Headquarters, Kirkland Lake and Sudbury, a peacekeeping stint in Haiti and a four-year secondment with the OPP Biker Enforcement Unit – is looking forward to his retirement. “I am leaving happy and healthy after a fulfilling and challenging career with the force,” he said.
His replacement has yet to be announced.
FEELING HEAT: Feeling the heat from intensified enforcement in Ontario, some smugglers have shifted their illegal business to Québec.
INSP. TIM KIMPAN