Saskatoon

First Nation banishment bylaw to target gangs, drugs

A Saskatchewan First Nation is the latest community to turn to banishment as a way to deal with drugs and violent crime.

‘If these kids want to be tough, be tough out there’: Beardy's and Okemasis Chief Rick Gamble

Chief Rick Gamble wants drug dealers, gangs and violent offenders off Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation. (CBC)

A Saskatchewan First Nation is the latest community to turn to banishment as a way to deal with drugs and violent crime.

The chief and council at Beardy's and Okemasis are fine-tuning a bylaw that would allow them to recommend banishment as part of an individual's sentencing.

Chief Rick Gamble said it's a response to a troubling trend on the First Nation 85 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

"That would allow us to work with the courts and the justice system to address basically what is drug trafficking, violent crime and gang activity in our community," he said.

Recent stabbing the tipping point

Gamble said a stabbing on the First Nation a month ago drove home the need for some sort of action.

The position our people have taken is, if these kids want to be tough, go and be tough out there.- Rick Gamble, chief, Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation

A man had been pepper-sprayed in a home. He returned later to confront his assailants to find out why he had been attacked.

"A young lady stabbed him in the back and missed his spine by inches," Gamble said. "That's what spurred everything."

Gamble said that getting troublemakers out of the community is a possible solution.

"We have young people that are wannabe gangsters: That's all they are," he said.

"The position our people have taken is, if these kids want to be tough, go and be tough out there. See how tough you really are."

How it works

Gamble said the proposed bylaw would not give chief and council the power to unilaterally target people in the community for banishment; the individual would have to be already involved in the court process. Further, it would be up to a judge to actually order the banishment and set the parameters.

"The key feature would be the ability of the chief and council to assert the authority, under the Indian Act, to ensure that community safety is, in fact, paramount in this process," he said.

Once a person is convicted of a crime, the band council could sign a resolution to ask that the judge include banishment as part of the sentence.

​​Gamble said the bylaw will be the subject of a community meeting on the First Nation on Feb. 8. He said it will also be sent to the federal justice department for input.

Bigger picture

In November, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron came out in support of formal banishment guidelines for First Nations across the province.

"If it means getting rid of drug dealers, sure," Cameron said in support at the time.

"If it means not losing any more youth to alcohol and drugs, you bet I do."

Chiefs Richard Ben of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation and Austin Bear of the Muskoday First Nation also recently took action to move toward banishment on reserve.

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