2 central Alberta First Nations enact bylaws to evict drug dealers

O'Chiese and Sunchild first nations have enacted bylaws to evict drug dealers from their communities.

'We came together as one nation to fight this epidemic,' says chief Douglas Beaverbones

Sunchild Chief Jonathan Frencheater (left) and O'Chiese Chief Douglas Beaverbones (right) sign the bylaw at an official ceremony with RCMP Cpl. Daniel Davis (centre). (O’Chiese First Nation)

Two neighbouring first nations in central Alberta have enacted bylaws aimed at evicting drug dealers from their communities.

O'Chiese and Sunchild First Nations held an official ceremony to enact the bylaws on Wednesday.

O'Chiese First Nation's Chief Douglas Beaverbones says his community is battling a drug and alcohol epidemic and the bylaw is exactly what is needed to ensure residents are safe.

"It was getting out of hand," Beaverbones said.

 "We started seeing people shooting at each other. They were killing each other … They were breaking into elders' homes, taking their medication. They started stealing stuff so they could support their habit. They were taking kids' Xboxes, Playstations, and selling them for drugs."

The bylaws came about after several public consultations and overwhelming support from the community, Beaverbones said.

Only a few people showed up at the first meeting five months ago. But increasingly more people attended to brainstorm on what needed to be done. A judge, prosecutors, RCMP members, youth and elders were among those who attended Wednesday's ceremony.

'It was very humbling to see all the people that showed up here," Beaverbones said. "We're not two nations now. We came together as one nation to fight this epidemic."

The two communities northwest of Rocky Mountain House are not the first to take this kind of action.

Samson Cree First Nation at Maskwacis and Enoch Cree Nation have both implemented the same bylaws. Enoch shared its experiences with O'Chiese and Sunchild.

"Both communities said, 'Yes that is what we need. That is what we need to do to take our community back'," recalled Bernadine Coleman, economic development officer for O'Chiese.

Evictions can come about when someone is convicted of a drug-related offence or at least 15 members sign a petition that is heard by a sanctioning body.

The body, made up of seven community members, will rule on penalties and appeals. Evictions will be conducted by a bylaw officer with support from the RCMP. Leadership is working in collaboration with both the RCMP and the province.

Beaverbones said the priority is to throw out non-members responsible for bringing meth, cocaine and fentanyl into the community while trying to get addicted and drug-dealing band members the help they need.