The Muskoday First Nation is seeking to become one of the first First Nations communities in Canada to enact a trespass, exclusion and banishment law.
Typically, the chief and council use a Band Council Resolution (BCR) to remove individuals who pose a threat to the community, but a BCR holds no true legal power.
“Sixty years ago we didn’t need this law because people looked after and cared for one another. That’s not the way it is anymore,” Chief Austin Bear said. “The world has changed, our people have changed, our community has changed.”
Bear said in the last six months, five non-band members have received a BCR asking them to permanently leave Muskoday, which is located about 25 kilometres southeast of Prince Albert, Sask.
“Under this law we do not have to rely on a BCR, we rely on the people’s law for this person to be banished. Those drug pushers, non-band members, were threatening our community and providing drugs to our people,” Bear said.
Although the law gives chief and council the power to remove band members and non-band members alike, Bear said he has no intentions of using it for a “witch hunt.”
“This law is not intended in any way to seek out and punish people that are troubled. In fact, with families now and the effort we are making, we are finding ways and means of helping people,” Bear said.
According to Muskoday’s legal counsel, each case will have to be looked at individually.
“It’s very much a need to consider each individual case on its own to compare merits. There may be some individuals who are charged with an offence not yet proven, chief and council consider that the culprit is creating a very real risk right now,” Andrew Bynon said. “It’s a question of looking at all those particular circumstances and considering both banishment and other options as well.”
A rough draft of the new trespass, exclusion and banishment bylaw recently passed through three readings by chief and council. After a consultation period, the chief and council are leaning towards a referendum to pass the law in the community.
“Even though chief and council has the authority to enact this law under the land code without member’s inclusion, participation and approval, that’s not the way we want to do it,” Bear said. “We want it to be a law that is supported and approved by the people of Muskoday.”
Bear said every band member of Muskoday has a right to vote on this new law.