Backgrounder - Criminal Code Amendments to Keep Contraband Tobacco off Canadian Streets

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The Government is advancing its efforts to combat the trafficking and cross border smuggling of contraband tobacco by establishing a 50-officer RCMP Anti-Contraband Force and by creating a new Criminal Code offence with mandatory penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders, many of whom are affiliated with other serious organized criminal activity such as weapons and illegal drug trafficking.

The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would create a new offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco. Trafficking would involve any of the following actions:

  • sale;
  • offer for sale;
  • possession for the purpose of sale;
  • transportation;
  • distribution; or
  • delivery.

Under the Bill, the maximum penalty for a first offence would be 6 months imprisonment on summary conviction and 5 years imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment.

The Bill also proposes mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders where a high volume of tobacco products is involved. The threshold to be considered “high volume” would be 10,000 cigarettes or 10 kilograms of other tobacco products.

The mandatory minimum penalties on indictment would be as follows:

  • 90 days incarceration on a second conviction;
  • 180 days incarceration on third conviction; and
  • 2 years less a day on subsequent convictions.

The Attorney General of Canada will be given concurrent jurisdiction with the provincial Attorneys General to prosecute this new offence. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada fulfills the responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada in the prosecution of criminal offences under federal jurisdiction.
The provisions would come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.


Department of Justice Canada
March 2013