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Monday, July 27th, 2015
3:30 pm - [LINK] "The lessons of Newfoundland’s 1948 referendum"
Suffragio features an article by Kevin Lees looking at Newfoundland's 1948 referendum. I think the author much too sanguine about the economic chances of Newfoundland--independence would have come at the price of continuing austerity, and no automatic access to the Canadian labour market--but the points made about the dynamics are worth noting.

Confederation’s champion was Joey Smallwood — a Liberal radio show host who embraced Canada and who nearly single-handedly pushed the cause through the Confederation Association. The cause of merging into Canada attracted support mainly from the Protestants of rural Newfoundland and Labrador; less so from the urban business class of St. John’s. After successfully pushing confederation, Smallwood (pictured above) would become the province’s first and most long-lasting premier, serving until 1972 and shaping Newfoundland’s transition as a part of federal Canada.

Peter Cashin, a one-time Newfoundlander finance minister, was a member of the 1947 commission to London that so disappointed Newfoundland’s leaders when the UK government refused to commit to financial assistance. Disillusioned by British intentions, and rightly suspecting that the British and Canadian government were colluding to favor confederation, Cashin led the Responsible Government League throughout the referendum campaign. In a famous 1947 speech to the national convention on Newfoundland’s future, he condemned what he called:

a conspiracy to sell… this country to the Dominion of Canada. Watch in particular the attractive bait which will be held out to lure our country into the Canadian mousetrap. Listen to their flowery sales talk which will be offered to you; telling Newfoundlanders they’re a lost people….

At minimum, Cashin believed that a return to responsible government would give Newfoundland a stronger hand in any potential talks on confederation, including the terms on which Newfoundland might join Canada — with respect to debt, provincial assistance and Newfoundland’s rights vis-à-vis the national government with respect to fishing and resources.

The most beguiling option came with the Economic Union Party, the brainchild of businessman Chelsey Crosbie. Though you might not be able to tell it from the name, the ‘economic union’ meant union with the United States — not with Canada. Crosbie’s group, which became even more popular than the Responsible Government League, hoped that independence would allow closer ties with the United States. US statehood was never presented on the ballot, even though there’s a plausible case that it might have won in light of the Newfoundlandish good will to the Americans during World War II. Though US president Harry Truman never seriously considered annexation, it’s conceivable that after a decade of closer economic partnership, Newfoundland could have become the 51st American state in 1959 alongside Alaska and Hawaii.

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11:50 am - [PHOTO] Dupont sunflower
Dupont sunflower #toronto #flowers #dupontstreet #sunflower

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12:02 am - [FORUM] What is the last movie you've seen?
This evening I saw Ant-Man, the latest enjoyable installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You?

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Sunday, July 26th, 2015
11:46 pm - [FORUM] What is the last movie you've seen?
This evening, I watched Ant-Man. It was a fun movie, a decent story with good actors that builds into the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was pleased.

What about you? What is the last movie that you have watched?

Discuss.

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2:21 pm - [PHOTO] Sprig of flowers on bench, Trinity Bellwoods
Sprig of flowers on bench #toronto #flowers #trinitybellwoods #parks #latergram

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Saturday, July 25th, 2015
10:09 pm - [FORUM] Do you read tie-in fiction?
I certainly do.

Treklit #startrek #books #ebooks #kobo #koboarc7 #davidegeorge

Star Trek novels are novels I have read since I was very young, starting with my uncle's copy of Diane Duane's Spock's World. This particular line goes back decades, the current Simon & Schuster imprint going back to the 1980s.

Vintage Treklit #toronto #books #bmv #treklit #sciencefiction

Why? There is much that I like in Star Trek--certain characters, certain civilizations, certain tropes--and I like seeing more of them. Since the universe has disappeared from television for more than a decade and the franchise rests on the anemic movies, the novels are for me the only media in which the universe continues to develop.

Perhaps more to the point, many of the novels are really quite good. Especially within the past two decades, at worst the authors have been competent, vetted by Paramount. At their best, these authors can actually be very good, writers with strong reputations outside of Star Trek tie-in fiction who are able to do good things with their source material. An entertainingly interconnected continuity has been built up over the past two decades, one in which actions have lasting consequences. Sometimes the television shows kept hitting the reset button. With the modern novels, this just does not happen. I like seeing this for myself.

This is certainly not the only thing I read. It is something that I do read and take pleasure in reading. Why not?

What about you? What do you think? What fandoms, what expanded universes, do you engage with?

Discuss.

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12:24 pm - [CAT] Shakespeare, in profile
Shakespeare, in profile #toronto #shakespeare #cats #caturday #catsofinstagram

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9:35 am - [PHOTO] Against the condo
Against the condo #toronto #graffiti #condos

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Friday, July 24th, 2015
9:05 pm - [DM] "On 'The Wetsuitman'"
I have a post up at Demography matters inspired by a posting on Reddit. Through that site's Unresolved Mysteries forum, I came across an English-language article in Norway's Dagbladet, "The Wetsuitman". Written by Anders Fjellberg and featuring photos by Tomm W. Christiansen and Hampus Lundgren, it's a superb if very sad piece of investigative journalism that takes two wetsuit-clad bodies found on the shores of the North Sea and uses them to examine such phenomena as Syria's war refugees and the desperate attempts of migrants to enter the United Kingdom from France.

This is a must-read.

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8:03 pm - [LINK] Three cautionary Kepler-452b links
  • Centauri Dreams featured Paul Gilster's post "Earth 2.0: Still Looking".


  • Kepler-452b, about 1400 light years from us, has now been confirmed as a planet, and it’s an interesting world, one that orbits a star much like the Sun, being about 5 percent more massive and 10 percent brighter. The planet itself is about 5 times the mass of the Earth, with a radius 50 to 60 percent larger. Moreover, Kepler-452b orbits only 5 percent farther from its parent star than Earth orbits the Sun, with a 385-day year. Jon Jenkins (NASA Ames) is lead author on the paper on this work. He pointed out at the NASA news briefing today that gravity on this world would be about 50 percent larger than that of Earth, on a world with a thicker atmosphere and a larger degree of cloud cover. The star is also older than our Sun[.]

    This is a planet that has been in its star’s habitable zone for longer than the age of the Earth, ample time, as Jenkins noted, for life to begin. Although the size of the world — intermediate between Earth and Neptune — makes it too large to be a true Earth analogue, Jenkins believes that it has a “better than even chance of being rocky.” Thus we could be looking at a world that models changes our planet will be making in the remote future.


  • Imageo notes that the nature of the world is still open to debate.


  • It’s 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion more than Earth. It’s also about 60 percent larger in diameter, and its mass is may be five times that of Earth, give or take.

    So, about that caveat: Astronomers can’t yet say what Kepler-452b is made of. For it truly to be just like Earth, it would have to be made of rock. And that’s why we still do not know for sure, despite today’s announcement, whether there really are other Earth-like planets circling stars like our Sun within a region where it’s not too hot or too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface. Liquid water is thought to be a requirement for life.

    But Jon Jenkins of NASA’s Ames Research Center, home of the Kepler project, told the New York Times that there’s a 50 percent to 62 percent chance of Kepler-452b being rocky.

    Or as NASA puts it, “previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky.”


  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that this world is one of twelve candidates.


  • Scientists analyzing four years of data from NASA's Kepler mission have released a new catalog of exoplanet candidates.

    The catalog adds more than 500 new possible planets to the 4,175 already found by the famed space-based telescope.

    "This catalog contains our first analysis of all Kepler data, as well as an automated assessment of these results," says SETI Institute scientist Jeffrey Coughlin who led the catalog effort. "Improved analysis will allow astronomers to better determine the number of small, cool planets that are the best candidates for hosting life."

    The Kepler space telescope identifies possible planets by observing periodic dips in the brightness of stars. However, confirmation of their true planetary status requires observations by other instruments, typically looking for slight shifts in the motion of the host suns. Historically, the overwhelming majority of Kepler's discoveries have turned out to be actual planets.

    The new catalog includes 12 candidates that are less than twice Earth's diameter, orbiting in the so-called habitable zone of their star. This zone is the range of distances at which the energy flux from the star would permit liquid water to exist on the planet's surface.

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    5:50 pm - [LINK] "Former B.C. Mountie gets two-year perjury sentence in Robert Dziekanski case"
    This criminal penalty, as reported by the Canadian Press, is something. It is not enough. Also, it is being appealed by the convicted liar in question.

    The lies a former Mountie told a public inquiry damaged the reputation of the RCMP and undermined confidence in the once-trusted institution, a B.C. Supreme Court judge said Friday.

    Justice Nathan Smith sentenced former corporal Benjamin “Monty” Robinson to two years less a day, one year of probation and 240 hours of community service for lying to the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski.

    Robinson was the senior officer in charge on Oct. 14, 2007, when Dziekanski was jolted with a Taser and died at Vancouver’s airport.

    Smith found him guilty last March, ruling he colluded with four fellow officers to make up testimony that they gave at the inquiry.

    “The impact of this offence on the community has been primarily to the reputation and credibility of the police force in which Mr. Robinson served,” Smith told the court. “Confidence and trust in the police is crucial to the proper functioning of the justice system and society in general.”

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    5:48 pm - [LINK] "Reporting Srebrenica: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil"
    Transitions Online hosts an article by one Antonela Riha looking at how the Serbian mass media chose not to cover the massacres following the fall of Srebrenica, and why.

    [B]y merely browsing the most influential dailies and weeklies, such as Politika, Vecernje Novosti, Politika Ekspres, Nasa Borba, NIN, Vreme, Duga, and Intervju, as well as news programs (Dnevnik) produced by TV Belgrade, it becomes clear that the majority of media in Serbia did not pose any questions or investigate the events in the war regions. For them, Srebrenica was merely another episode of the war in which victims were taken for granted and were no longer counted.

    Serbian public broadcaster RTS took literally what Milosevic said about being interested only in achieving a “just peace” and having nothing to do with the Serbs across the Drina River. The most popular TV show of the most powerful media house, TV Belgrade Evening News at 7:30 (Dnevnik), did not include a single video from Srebrenica or any other war zone until 30 July.

    On 11 July 11, TV Belgrade commenced its news program with a report on the visit of Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic to some harvesters. It was only on the following day that TV Belgrade viewers would learn that something was going on some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Serbian border: in the 11th minute of the news they could hear Yasushi Akashi, special UN envoy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying the UN was not going to intervene in Srebrenica, and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali saying UN peacekeepers were not going to retreat from Bosnia.

    For days, several minute-long packages were broadcast in the middle of the news, with international officials announcing various peace solutions and a conference of the major outside powers leading the negotiations, with images of EU envoy Carl Bildt, Akashi, and another UN envoy, Thorvald Stoltenberg, sharing the settee with Milosevic. There were no sound bites from any of the players, with only statements being read to viewers.

    Nor was there a single statement from or footage of a Bosnian Serb official, either soldier or civilian. The only frame showing Srebrenica that was broadcast during those 20 days was a video playing in the background of a TV comment by Tatjana Lenard on 23 July that featured the landscape of the town and UN vehicles, which could have been filmed at any time.

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    5:45 pm - [LINK] "Serbia’s choice: EU membership or eastern promises?"
    Srdja Pavlović's March Open Democracy essay looks at the continuing internal conflicts in Serbia over the country's orientation.

    In an interview for CNN in August 2014, the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, reiterated that his country "supports and respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and Crimea as a part of Ukraine." He added that at the same time, however, Serbia "did not" impose sanctions against Russia. The Serbian political elite, however, has quickly learned that the time of non-alignment and neutrality belongs to yester-years. Serbia has been reminded time and again by its Western partners of the need to make a choice, and of the fact that the New Cold War reality demands unwavering loyalty. It is also worth noting that Serbia became a member of the Partnership for Peace at the 2006 NATO Summit in Riga.

    On the other hand, the government in Moscow is sending a clear message that it does not look benevolently upon Serbia’s EU aspirations. In an interview for the Serbian State Television, the Russian General Leonid Ivashov stated that Serbia in the EU and NATO would be “a catastrophe”. It is reasonable to assume that the pressure from Moscow would only increase over time.

    Within the ruling party there seem to be dissonant voices on the issue of choosing between EU and Russia. The President of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić, disagrees with the prime minister about their country’s EU and NATO integration, and favours stronger ties with Russia. Nikolić’s attempt to maintain close relations with Moscow is informed by his understanding of history and the political usability of the memory of the recent confrontation with NATO, as well as the ideology of nationalism to which he wholeheartedly subscribes. He is supported in that by the entire right-wing political block that currently commands the loyalty of a sizable portion of the electorate. President Nikolić is also aided in its pro-Russian stance by the high ranking clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

    Some analysts, however, interpret his dissent as a tactical maneuver that portrays Prime Minister Vučić as a reform-oriented centrist determined to see Serbia become a part of the EU, and as a politician who is facing stiff opposition. The prime minister, long known as a hot-bloodied nationalist, indeed appears eager to project the image of himself as Serbia’s last chance for salvation and a victim of historical circumstances. Vučić believing in his messianic role notwithstanding, the reality is that criticisms of his policies are few and far between. His standing as the most popular politician in Serbia was built on the perception of his determined fight against deeply rooted corruption even though the results of such struggle are yet to manifest themselves in earnest. Many in Serbia say that Aleksandar Vučić had promised a lot but delivered precious little.

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    5:42 pm - [LINK] "Increasing tension over some Amish beliefs as communities grow"
    Al Jazeera America's Kevin Williams notes growing conflicts between Amish and their non-Amish neighbours in the United States.

    In this rural outpost near the border with Tennessee, Amish women park their horse-drawn buggies at the edge of town and walk in dragging wooden wagons behind them, returning with goods stacked high. Some avoid town altogether. They fear ending up like Amos Mast and Dan Mast, an Amish father and son who face the possibility of jail for refusing to pay fines for not attaching a bag behind their horse to catch manure. The Masts say the bags spook the horses and that paying the town’s fines would set an unwelcome precedent.

    “I used to have a lot of Amish customers, but I haven’t had an Amish customer in the past three to four months. They used to come in every day. I don’t know how many dollars’ worth of belts I bought just for them that are now just sitting there. They power everything with gasoline engines, and they need belts for them to run,” said Glen Sears, the owner of Glen’s Hardware. He said many Amish now go to the town of Franklin, 13 miles away, for supplies.

    Soon they may not even be going there. Most of the Amish around Auburn, according to Margie Reed, a friend and neighbor to many of the local Amish, are preparing to pack up and move to Pennsylvania, which has historically been very accommodating to the Amish.

    Auburn, Kentucky is one of many towns where locals appear to be increasingly clashing with the Amish over traditional practices. Diane Umble, the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, has studied Amish culture extensively. She attributes many of these conflicts to the combination of a growing Amish population and a small group of Amish who are resistant to compromising on their traditions and balk at government rules.

    [. . .]

    With a historically high birthrate for the Amish and less and less available farmland, these issues will continue to grow, Umble said, as they keep moving to new areas. Most estimates say the Amish population in the USA doubles every generation. So with currently about 200,000 church members, more and more rural space is needed to accommodate the groups.

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    5:39 pm - [LINK] "Saskatchewan’s HIV epidemic"
    Ken MacQueen of MacLean's writes about the emergence of a serious HIV epidemic in Saskatchewan, concentrated in disadvantaged populations.\

    Sometimes when Dr. Alex Wong wants to draw the attention of government policy-makers to the HIV epidemic in his home province of Saskatchewan, he entitles his statistical presentation “Africa on the Prairies.” Here in Vancouver, at the International AIDS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, he took a more scholarly tone: “The Developing World in Our Own Backyard: Concentrated HIV Epidemics in High Income Settings.” He was sharing the stage with an AIDS worker from Ukraine and doctors from the hard-hit American regions of Appalachia and southeastern U.S., but the point was made. While Ukraine is coping with a tenuous economy and Russian incursion, the fact that regions of two of the world’s wealthiest countries are coping with Third World levels of HIV infection rates reflects, in his view, a sad failure of policy, planning and political will.

    At its peak five years ago Saskatchewan had an infection rate of more than 19 people per 100,000 population, 2½ times the national average—by far the highest rate in Canada. While that provincial rate has since fallen to about twice the national average, those numbers don’t address the racial disparity or the potential disaster looming on the horizon, says Wong, an infectious diseases physician, researcher and a clinical director of the HIV provincial leadership team.

    The infection rate for Saskatchewan’s non-Aboriginal population is below the national average. Yet, while First Nations and Metis account for about 16 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population, they represented about 80 per cent of all new cases of HIV diagnosed in 2011, Wong told a workshop attended by a few hundred of the 6,000 delegates here. “The incidence rate in our Aboriginal population is about 88 per 100,000 [population], which is 14 times the national average, on par with various African countries.”

    The primary cause of the HIV and hepatitis C outbreak is an epidemic of injection-drug use in the urban centres like Regina and Saskatoon, and of injected prescription drugs in rural regions and isolated reserves.

    But the blame itself runs deeper, including the legacy of colonialism, residential schools and discrimination, Margaret Poitras, a Cree and CEO of the All Nations Hope AIDS Network, told the panel.

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    5:36 pm - [LINK] "Italy Leans While Greece Tumbles"
    Lorenzo Totaro and Vernon Silver wrote in Bloomberg Businessweek about the factors that have kept the country from following Greece. A strong industrial base and low levels of household debt matter.

    Viewed from Berlin or London, the financial woes of Italy and Greece can look dangerously similar. Both sit on mountains of public debt and suffer from double-digit unemployment. So why hasn’t Italy had to shutter banks, submit to austerity measures in return for emergency loans, and contemplate an exit from the euro?

    For now Italy is chugging along, paying its debts and selling bonds. Its benchmark stock index is up 25 percent this year. It’s emerging from a record recession even as Greece enters a new slump after a brief rebound in 2014. Rome-based Eni, Europe’s No. 4 oil company, is pumping 1.7 million barrels per day globally and says output will keep rising. Finmeccanica sells helicopters to corporations and armed forces from the U.K. to China. Carnival cruise liners are made in Fincantieri’s Trieste shipyard. Italian luxury goods, from Fendi to Ferrari, are at the top of consumer shopping lists. Among European manufacturers, Italy trails only Germany in production.

    The Greeks? They’ve got “tourism and shipping and little else,” says Marc Ostwald, a fixed income strategist at ADM Investor Service in London. Greek exports fell 7.5 percent in the first quarter, while Italy’s rose more than 3 percent. Tourism in Italy generated about €34 billion ($37.1 billion) last year, almost triple what it did in Greece.

    With 60 million residents, Italy is more than five times as populous as Greece. History makes a difference, too. Rebuilding from World War II, Italy set off on the Dolce Vita boom years, popularizing the Vespa scooter and making a mark in international design. Nutella, a nut-based chocolate spread introduced after the war, had annual sales of €8.4 billion last year, making the Ferrero family one of Italy’s richest. Greece, by contrast, went from government by junta in the 1960s and 1970s to a republic run by a political elite and a bloated government in the 1980s. Cutting its civil service and pension costs down to an appropriate size lies at the heart of the struggle between Greece and Europe on economic reform.

    Italy’s strength as an industrial exporter has provided stability, helping the country build up gold reserves of $90 billion—the world’s third-biggest stash after the U.S. and Germany and more than 20 times what Greece holds. Just a single Italian bank needed a public bailout after the 2008 crisis, even as dozens of lenders in northern Europe had to dip into state coffers to stay open.

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    2:57 pm - [BLOG] Some Friday links

    • Centauri Dreams explores Pluto and its worlds.

    • Crooked Timber considers the question of how to organize vast quantities of data.

    • The Dragon's Gaze links to two papers on exoplanet habitability, noting that the composition of exoplanets influences their habitability and suggests exomoons need to be relatively massive to be habitable.

    • Geocurrents notes the inequalities of Chile.

    • Joe. My. God. notes an article about New York City gay nightclub The Saint.

    • Language Hat links to a site on American English.

    • Language Log suggests that the Cantonese language is being squeezed out of education in Hong Kong.

    • Languages of the World notes a free online course on language revival.

    • Peter Watts of No Moods, Ads, or Cutesy Fucking Icons examines the flaws of a paper on a proto-Borg collective of rats.

    • Spacing Toronto looks at the Toronto connection to a notorious late 19th century American serial killer.

    • Towleroad notes a study suggesting that people with undetectable levels of HIV can't transmit the virus.

    • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the issues of compliance with lawful orders.

    • Whatever's John Scalzi likes the ASIS Chromebook flip.

    • Window on Eurasia notes the connection between the wars of Yugoslavia and eastern Ukraine, looks at Buryat-Cossack conflict, and notes disabled Russian veterans of the Ukrainian war.

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    11:43 am - [PHOTO] Herringbone clouds
    Herringbone clouds #toronto #galleriamall #sky #clouds

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    Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
    9:38 pm - [MUSIC] Annie Lennox and The Blue Nile, "The Downtown Lights"
    I mentioned The Blue Nile's 1989 song "The Downtown Lights", off of the group's lauded 1989 Hats, back in August of 2008. I'd actually first heard the song in 1995, when I bought Annie Lennox's covers album Medusa.





    Medusa is more of an uneven album than I thought on first listen, but Lennox's version of song definitely holds up on re-listening two decades later. I suspect this might be because Lennox and The Blue Nile's songwriter Paul Buchanan share the same ethos, of the careful construction of quietly passionate songs. Back in 2008, I was struck by this lyric:

    Tonight and every night
    Let's go walking down this empty street
    Let's walk in the cool evening light
    Wrong or right
    Be at my side
    The downtown lights


    I was in love, then.

    Now, it's the final monologue, about the dead ends of city life and hopes dashed, that gets me.

    The neon's and the cigarettes
    Rented rooms and rented cars
    The crowded streets, the empty bars
    Chimney tops and trumpets

    The golden lights, the loving prayers
    The colored shoes, the empty trains
    I'm tired of crying on the stairs
    The downtown lights
    Yeah, yeah
    </blockquote

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    6:28 pm - [LINK] "First Nations set to battle Ottawa over contraband cigarettes"
    The Toronto Star's Allan Woods reports on an issue I'm of two minds about. On the one hand, First Nations self-rule and respect for treaties matter. On the other, there are undeniable public health elements here.

    Bill C-10, which took effect in April, targets individuals caught producing, transporting or selling large quantities of raw tobacco leaves or manufactured cigarettes on which a government tax has not been paid.

    [. . .]

    Police define contraband tobacco as products such as raw leaves smuggled into Canada, counterfeit cigarettes that arrive from overseas and tobacco produced for sale on First Nations territory that is sold tax-free to non-natives.

    Intended to hamper a black market worth billions of dollars each year, natives fear the law will single them out for enforcement. They warn of job losses, economic decline and the criminalization of a people who have been growing and trading tobacco wherever and with whomever they please.

    “This is our own product. We’d like to know where in history we gave up the right to conduct business and trade with that specific product,” said Chief Gina Deer, a member of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, south of Montreal.

    Both Kahnawake and the Six Nations First Nation near Brantford, Ont., are expected to formally adopt their own tobacco laws as early as August in a bid to regulate cigarette production and sales, collect their own revenues from the smokes and stave off interference from non-native police and governments.

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