The Chief of Standing Buffalo First Nation says the idea of banning alcohol has come up in the wake of a tragic murder on the reserve, but says the band is already taking proactive steps to address issues of alcohol abuse and crime.
RCMP say alcohol was a factor in the murder of 28-year-old Mario Kaiswatum at a home on Standing Buffalo on New Year’s Day. Maurice Maple, 55, who also lives on the reserve, was arrested and charged with first degree murder and made his first court appearance in Fort Qu’Appelle on Monday.
Chief Roger Redman says it is a sad time for the small community, noting that support for the family is the priority right now.
He says crisis counselors and elders are working with families of the victim and the accused along with witnesses to provide psychological and cultural support.
“We’re trying to provide as much support as we can to help all the people involved,” Redman commented.
He says it will be important for the whole community to rebuild and move forward together.
“These people were friends, they were fathers, they were uncles, nephews of extended family, and when this happens in a close-knit community, you know, it creates a lot of emotion,” he said.
When it comes to addressing this kind of violence and crime, Redman says the reserve has a justice committee that is very proactive in working with the RCMP to track and identify issues related to alcohol abuse and crime.
“The question came up about alcohol, you know banning alcohol from our community,” he said. “I mean to some extent we’ve done some of that. With our multi-dwelling units where we have more than one family in our fourplexes and our duplexes, we have banned alcohol from those units out of respect and the safety of the neighbours and stuff. So we’re trying to do as much as we can.”
Redman says introducing an outright ban on alcohol and creating a ‘dry reserve’ would involve a long process of consultation and review.
“If there is going to be a question as far as banning alcohol from our community, our local justice committee along with our elders’ committee would bring that forward,” Redman explained. “In turn we’d have to take that to the membership for a vote and go from there ensuring that we’re not infringing on any human rights or individual rights.”
Redman says the band council may look at the process, but it would have to come with the support of the community.
“At the same time, this is an isolated incident – it was New Year’s and alcohol was involved, and you know when alcohol is involved, that’s when a lot of innocent people get hurt in those environments,” he commented.
Speaking in general terms, Redman says Standing Buffalo has also taken steps to address other areas of crime, even going so far as evicting people suspected of drug and gang activity from houses on the reserve.
“If they were a band member initiating illegal activity and they were convicted, then we would be looking at banning them from the reserve,” he said. “So they wouldn’t be allowed on Standing Buffalo if they were bringing a negative element to our community.”
Redman added that there are many other positive steps being taken to address issues of crime, violence and drug abuse on the First Nation.