Hobbema reserve votes to allow eviction of gang members

The Samson Cree First Nation has voted to allow the eviction of gang members from the troubled community at Hobbema, Alta.
The Samson Cree First Nation has struggled with drive-by shootings and deaths. (CBC)

The Samson Cree First Nation has voted to allow the eviction of gang members from the troubled community at Hobbema, Alta.

The largest of four reserves located 90 kilometres south of Edmonton voted Wednesday on a residency bylaw that would allow reserve members to evict troublemakers. The vote was 479 in favour to 370 against, Coun. Elroy Strawberry-Rain told CBC News.

The community has been trying to cope with violence attributed to gangs.

"It boils down to … the murders, the drive-bys, the violence that has plagued our community," Coun. Kirk Buffalo said Wednesday before the vote.

The proposed bylaw will be reviewed by Alberta's Ministry of Aboriginal and Northern Development. A federal government spokeswoman said it is unlikely the proposal would be blocked by Ottawa.

Passage of the bylaw would mean any 25 residents of the 7,000-member Samson Cree band in Hobbema could apply to have someone legally removed from the reserve.

The plan to hold the vote was approved after the chief's five-year-old grandson was killed by a gunshot in July while sleeping in his bedroom during a drive-by shooting, but it also reflects concern about gang violence.


Will evicting gang members help reserves? Have your say.

Samson resident Roy Louis said people are fed up with crime, but there are also concerns that such evictions would mean gang members would simply move to one of the other three reserves in the Hobbema area.

"It is fine and dandy to have a bylaw to banish some of the gang members, but it has to be in sync with the other three nations," Louis said.

"We don't want the gang members to simply cross the street to the Ermineskin First Nation or the Louis Bull First Nation or Montana First Nation."

About a dozen gangs have been fighting over the drug trade in Hobbema's four First Nations, where more than half of the 14,000 residents are under 18 years old.

Drive-by shootings have been a problem since 2008, when a 23-month-old toddler was shot as she sat at the kitchen table eating supper. Asia Saddleback survived, but the bullet is permanently lodged between her liver and spine.

Since then there have been numerous other shootings. In some cases, people have been killed or wounded. In other cases, gang members have riddled homes with bullets.

More than 42 RCMP are posted in the Hobbema area, one of the highest officer-to-population ratios in Canada, and Mounties say the crime rate is slowly improving.

With files from The Canadian Press