New Brunswick

Kingsclear First Nation bans 5 people from the reserve as part of drug crackdown

Kingsclear First Nation band council has "banished" five people from the reserve as part of a stepped-up effort to rid the community of illegal drugs, says the chief.

Band members who house the 'banished' individuals 'shall face consequences'

Kingsclear First Nation Band Council has been working 'for months' on the plan to ban the individuals, said Chief Gabriel Atwin. (Kingsclear First Nation Band Administration Page/Facebook)

Kingsclear First Nation band council has "banished" five people from the reserve as part of a stepped-up effort to rid the community of illegal drugs, says the chief.

"These individuals have been identified as trespassers by Chief and Council," the band posted on its Facebook page Friday morning, along with the names of the non-band members and their photographs.

"Effective immediately, these people are not permitted within the boundaries of the reserve for any reason."

Any band member found to be housing the banned individuals "shall face consequences" that could include eviction and the loss of social benefits and services, the notice warns.

If any of the "undesirables" are spotted on the reserve, they will be reported to RCMP and could be charged with trespassing under the Criminal Code, said Chief Gabriel Atwin.

"It's not a decision we take lightly," he said, but "our job as leaders is to protect the community and that's the steps we're taking."

"As drastic as they seem, again, it's our community and we're trying to take it back."

Kingsclear First Nation Chief Gabriel Atwin said some of the steps band council is taking may seem drastic, but he believes they're necessary. (Submitted by Gabriel Atwin)

Although the individuals have not been convicted, they are allegedly involved in drug activity, said Atwin, based on complaints from members of the Wolastoqiyik community of about 800, located approximately 15 kilometres west of Fredericton.

Band council does not have the judicial power to charge non-Indigenous people, but sought legal advice before banning and publicly identifying the individuals, said Atwin.

"So we're pretty confident that we're pretty safe."

Kingsclear has banned people in the past, prior to him becoming the chief seven-and-a-half years ago, he said.

We just finally had enough.- Gabriel Atwin, band chief

Similar measures have been used in other First Nation communities in New Brunswick, such as Oromocto and St. Mary's, and across the country to deal with drug problems, he added.

"It's a battle that's ongoing and continues in every First Nation that I know."

Kingsclear has all types of drug issues, ranging from addiction to discarded dirty needles and overdoses, said Atwin, a 52-year-old father of three who grew up in the community and returned about 10 years ago when he retired from the U.S. military.

There was no particular catalyst for the band council's extreme action, he said. "We just finally had enough."

Other measures

Council has also hired a band member as a security manager, is considering hiring security staff and is developing a volunteer community watch program, said Atwin.

"It takes a community to protect … our community. I don't know, I can't put it any more blunt than that I guess. We need their help in understanding that we've got to do this together."

In addition, Atwin is looking into the possibility of having a police presence on the reserve, like some of the larger First Nation communities in the province. Tobique and Elsipogtog, for example, have RCMP on-site, while St. Mary's has a partnership with the Fredericton Police Force, he said.

As part of council's multi-pronged approach, Atwin hopes to build a centre to offer after-care to addicts who return from detox programs.

He expects to have a funding proposal ready to submit within the next month, he said.