The chief of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said he supports bands that want to exile criminals.
Bobby Cameron, who represents 74 of the province’s First Nations, said he backs banishment if it means getting rid of drug dealers or protecting young people from drugs and alcohol.
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“We’re talking about some communities here that have drug dealers that are selling to 10-year-old kids. What would you guys do? Honestly. You got a 10-year-old kid that’s doing crystal meth. The next day, they kill themselves. Are you going to let it continue or are you going to banish these drug dealers?” Cameron said Monday at the provincial legislature.
“Something has to be done.”
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Cameron said the RCMP has a big role to play, too, working with chiefs, band councils and First Nations people who know who the drug dealers are in their communities.
“It’s about improving and combating these problems before they escalate to the point where there’s full-blown usage of drugs and then suicide happens.”
Cameron spoke after reports that Chief Richard Ben and the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation banished six non-band members and gave warnings to more than a dozen members because of a crystal meth problem.
Muskoday First Nation, Mistawasis First Nation and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band have also banished people to help control crime.
Muskoday Chief Austin Bear said his community held a referendum at the end of October and just over 80 per cent of about 180 people who voted supported a banishment law.
“I see that as our membership supporting their leadership, but more importantly … (they) are concerned about issues in our community with respect to the illicit and illegal trafficking of drugs and how that is impacting on our families, our children and our community,” Bear said.
Five non-members suspected of dealing such drugs were kicked out, he said.
The law could also apply to someone convicted of murder or a known pedophile, he suggested.
“We’re not out on a witch hunt here; however, when the situation arises, we have ways and means of challenging our members who choose to be drug pushers,” Bear said.
“The outcome for these people may be exclusion or banishment, but it’s not an automatic banishment. Every situation has to be considered … on its own.
“But it’s not by any means an intention to have a blanket banishment or exclusion. There’s much more to it than that.”
Other First Nations communities outside of Saskatchewan have also tried banishment.
In 2012, the crime-troubled Samson Cree band in Maskwacis, Alta. – then known as Hobbema – voted to give community leaders the power to evict suspected gang members.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada said in 2009 that Manitoba’s Norway House First Nation didn’t have the power to enforce a bylaw banishing troublemakers. A government spokeswoman said at the time that the bylaw submitted to the department attempted to regulate activities that were outside the bylaw-making powers of the Indian Act.
Bear said the law on Muskoday is stronger than a bylaw and falls under the First Nations Land Management Act.