Kashechewan gives chief and council power to banish drug dealers from James Bay community

One northern Ontario First Nation has begun banishing drug dealers from the community. Kashechewan recently passed a bylaw giving chief and council the power to forcibly remove someone from the fly-in reserve.

First suspected drug dealer to be banished is a woman from Attawapiskat

A circular white wooden sign with paint peeling off of it reads 'Kashechewan Cree First Nation' with a logo in the middle depicting a man's head, a goose and a moose.
The annual evacuation of the James Bay Cree community of Kashechewan will begin on Tuesday, although the Albany River is still mostly frozen. (Erik White/CBC )

A woman originally from Attawapiskat is being forcibly removed from Kashechewan because she's believed to be a drug dealer.

She is the first person to be banished from the Cree community under a recently adopted trespassing bylaw.

"We got our mandate from the community and the general membership of our meetings," says Chief Leo Friday. 

"They say we have to do something and this is what we are doing."

Like most communities in northern Ontario, Kashechewan has seen a rise in illegal drug use in recent years.

"A lot of the parents are worried and couldn't sleep," says Friday. 

"It's worse now. Our children are really unprotected."

Several remote northern First Nations have considering banishing drug dealers, including last year in Moose Factory, but Kashechewan is the first to do it.

Kashechewan chief Leo Friday says banishing suspected drug dealers is one of the only ways to protect the community's many children. (Erik White/CBC )

Friday says chief and council aren't required to wait to for police to lay charges before they decide to banish someone.

"With the Indian Act, it doesn't have to be evidence, we just know who they are," says Friday. 

"We have all kinds of witnesses, knowledges and pictures and letters. When you ask your child 'Where did you get it?' They tell you where they got it."

He says there are several people who have been marked for banishment, but they are still trying to figure out the details for getting the first one out of Kashechewan.

She is originally from Attawapiskat, which has closed its border and airport during COVID-19. 


Erik White


Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to