A chief on the Kahnawake Mohawk Council wants the community to consider banishing known drug dealers to confront what he says is an increasingly out-of-control problem with drug abuse.
Carl Horn is calling for the council to dust off a decades-old band council resolution that declared Kahnawake a drug-free zone and empowered authorities on the Mohawk territory on Montreal's South Shore to force out a resident found to be dealing illegal drugs.
A former Kahnawake peacekeeper, Horn said he's concerned about rising illegal drug use, especially amongst youth on the territory.
"It's a serious issue in our community, and its getting worse and worse," Horn told CBC's Daybreak. "We're moving on from marijuana, to the point where kids are crushing oxycodone, snorting it and injecting it."
Horn says although it's been rarely used, banishment may be the best tool the Mohawk council has in its arsenal to curb illegal drug use.
"I'm not saying it's the best way to deal with it," Horn said. "What I'm saying is, in 1989 it was put on the books, so why not consider it? ... See where it takes us."
Woman banished in 1989
Since the Kahnawake Mohawk Council (MCK) passed its banishment resolution in 1989, Horn believes it was used just once.
He said the MCK issued a letter to the resident known to be dealing drugs, giving her a certain amount of time to leave the Mohawk territory permanently.
The woman never returned, he said.
Legal under federal Indian Act
The whole notion of dictating who can live in Kahnawake has proven to be controversial, both within the Mohawk territory and in the wider community.
Witness the MCK's recent attempts to apply its 35-year-old "marry out, stay out" rule, with the handing out of eviction notices to Mohawk residents and their non-native spouses.
Under the federal Indian Act, First Nations governments do have the right to determine who is a band member.
"Even under the Indian Act, the MCK [has] jurisdiction over residence on reserve," said McGill University Law Professor Kirsten Anker, a specialist in Indigenous peoples and the law, in an email to CBC.
"This could be interpreted to mean they have the power to say who can live in the community," Anker said.
Horn said he does believe some sort of mechanism would have to be put into place to ensure due process for Kahnawake community members suspected of dealing drugs.
That could mean only convicted traffickers would be subject to banishment, he said.
He suggested the age of the person suspected of dealing would also have to be taken into consideration. But ultimately, that would be up to the community to decide, said Horn.
Would banishment curb drug use?
Law enforcement officers in Kahnawake aren't convinced Horn's proposal to banish known drug dealers would curb illegal drug use.
"From my perspective, I don't think banishment is a good solution. It's not closing a gap," said Chief Peacekeeper Dwayne Zacharie.
"And where are these people going to go?" Zacharie asks."In the past, banishment was a death sentence."
MCK Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton was not available for comment.
Kahnawake Mohawk Council resolution No. 140, passed on April 17, 1989: