Garden Centre okays apparent smoke shack

by Bill Jackson - Regional News

July 8, 2009

A co-owner of the Mohawk Garden Centre off Highway 6 doesn't mind that an apparent native smoke shack has popped up on his property. In fact, he allowed it to move there.

The purple hut which was not operational on Monday is owned by a former employee and friend, said Rob Smolka.

When Haldimand Coun. Craig Grice told the owner that the county could tow the shack off a municipally owned right of way, she asked Smolka if she could move it on to his property and he consented.

"The natives are really good customers of ours from the Reserve," he said. "We don't even like to use the work native. They're more like neighbours."

The latest addition is the seventh such shack to turn up on the side of the provincial highway since 2007.

A business selling rollies out of the back of a pickup truck opened on the Caledonia bypass next to a provincial hydro corridor just outside Caledonia earlier this month.

While the owners of both recently established businesses were unavailable for comment on Monday afternoon and did not reply to The Regional News, a man identifying himself as Hoshdayno said he doesn't think people should be upset.

He said that his people on Six National never relinquished land near Caledonia that was stolen from them.

"We never gave this away," he said. "It's a land grab and if we don't stand up it's going to keep going on."

The resident of Ohsweken said that smoke shacks complement businesses in Caledonia and bring more commerce to town.

"We're responsible for bringing a great deal of that in," he said.

Grice said the smoke shacks fly in the face of federal and provincial legislation and health regulations. Some worry that entranceways off the highway could cause a bad accident.

"These are illegal shops that should be closed down period," Grice said.

"The county isn't changing its position at all. We want them all gone."

Another smoke shack that opened up last month on private land does not conform with municipal bylaws and the landowner will be served with a summons because the county is planning on taking him to court, according to Mayor Marie Trainer.

Haldimand's Manager of building and bylaw Enforcement, Ed Vanderwindt, said that there were ongoing discussions he wasn't privy to and referred the Regional News to CAO Don Boyle.

Boyle said that the county would not make a public statement on the smoke shack issue which he said is "standard when it comes to these types of things."

OPP Cst. Paula Wright said that the OPP is communicating with all parties involved to determine the most effective response. The OPP is just one organization working toward a way to address tobacco being sold out of smoke shacks, she noted.

"If any enforcement is necessary the OPP will work in cooperation with the RCMP and Canada Revenue."

"Each situation is unique," Wright added. "The properties they are on and what is attached makes them different."

While children played in a field under hydro wires and near signs that read caution, Hoshdayno said that his people are trying to work peacefully to bring about resolutions to land claims.

"If it takes a physical confrontation it will take that,: he said. "But we don't want that. We don't want untold Indians coming into this place. It almost got out of control before. That could happen again if we're not careful. You talk about safety, that's safety there."