Banishment from reserves a community effort

Rick Tailfeathers, communications director for the Kainai First Nation Blood tribe, spoke with CBC's Blue Sky on Tuesday to discuss banishment.

People cannot be banned arbitrarily as banishment is usually reserved for people who pose a risk to community

People must be charged and convicted before they can be considered for banishment, says Rick Tailfeathers. (Shutterstock)

Banishment is being considered by multiple Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. 

Muskoday First Nation recently passed a vote on a trespass law which would allow them to charge people with trespassing on reserve land, if they were unwanted in the community. 

It's not a new concept, says Rick Tailfeathers, the communications director of the Kainai First Nation Blood tribe, located approximately 215 kilometres south of Calgary.

He talked with CBC Radio's Blue Sky on Tuesday to give some insight into the process.

In the case of the Blood tribe, community members raise concerns about a particular individual to chief and council, he said.

The issue is then discussed and if it is deemed necessary, a band council resolution (BCR) is passed which would banish an individual from the reserve.

Bands are able to banish people through provisions in the Indian Act, Tailfeathers said. 

If the banished were to return, they could face trespassing charges from tribal or provincial police, Tailfeathers said. 

People cannot face arbitrary banishment, Tailfeathers added. First, a person must be charged and convicted as well as identified as a concern by community members before a BCR is discussed. 

Tribal members can be banished but Tailfeathers said the process is a little more complicated. Family members in the community may oppose a banishment of their relatives or other community members might not support a banishment.

Since 2015, the Blood tribe has banished four people, none of which were tribe members. All of them were banished for drug trafficking.

Tailfeathers said the Tribe is in the midst of a drug problem. He said 21 people have died from drugs in the tribe. 

"It's very difficult for the people of the tribe to deal with fentanyl fatalities."

"We have to take action," Tailfeathers said. "Whatever we can do to stop the flow of drugs into the reserve."

With files from Blue Sky