First Nations fighting to take back their communities from drug and solvent abuse dealers and users

From the Cape Breton Post

Eskasoni can legally exile drug dealers - Legal expert says banishing drug dealers doesn’t violate charter

ERIN POTTIE - April 9, 2009

ESKASONI — Banishing drug dealers from First Nations communities isn’t a violation of Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to a criminal justice expert.

Michael C. Chettleburgh of Toronto, who runs his own criminal justice consulting business and often works in First Nations communities, said Eskasoni’s decision to take away band privileges from drug dealers is not illegal — or even uncommon.

Eskasoni band officials are threatening to take away certain privileges from drug dealers in the community, including employment with the band, housing and any income coming from the fisheries, gaming and sale of tobacco.

“If a First Nation was to do this and there was to be a challenge, I’m pretty sure they would be successful in defending that challenge,” said Chettleburgh, who lived in Coxheath for three years. “These things are provided to you really as a privilege rather than a right, so if you breach (community protocol), really you should be banished — period.”

Chettleburgh said in certain nomadic tribes, members can be asked to leave shared lands for eight weeks. When that time is up, if they choose to be a productive citizen they can return; if not, members are told to not come back.

He said many First Nations communities in Canada are looking to banishment as a way of dealing with prolific criminals and said bands aren’t responsible for providing for their outcast residents.

Still, they must follow the proper process.

“Even if they are (a) First Nation, they are still subject to the Criminal Code of Canada, including the rules of evidence and testament, all those things,” he noted.

Jaime Battiste, an adviser to the Eskasoni band, said people charged with drug trafficking will lose their privileges even before a court trial. He said a recent survey shows drug abuse is the top concern in the community.

“Based on that and based on some of the (suicide and drug-related) deaths we’ve had in the community, chief and council felt it was the right time to create a partnership with the RCMP to work together to see how we can start making a difference,” Battiste said.

Under the resolution, RCMP could supply the band with the names of anyone charged with drug trafficking. Band officials will then apply for a court order to remove the offender from band housing.

Battiste said people will lose privileges once charged. If charges are later dropped, the privileges will be reinstated.

“People who get their charges withdrawn will automatically get those privileges back,” he said.

Band council is also considering a residency code that would apply to offences such as murder and pedophilia.

“What we’re saying is based on Mi’kmaq principles, with rights come responsibilities, and if you don’t maintain your responsibilities as Mi’kmaq, you lose those rights or privileges.”

Chettleburgh said he doesn’t believe any band would banish someone without first holding some sort of hearing.

“I don’t think for a second they’re going to accept the word of the RCMP and then make orders based on that. That would be a very naive approach,” he said.

Battiste said the band doesn’t plan to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also said a person’s privileges could be reinstated after they receive counselling and demonstrate good behaviour.

Eskasoni officials say prescription pill abuse is a problem on the reserve. The band has already instituted a court-approved policy that tests community fisherman for illegal drugs.


From The Kenora Daily Miner and News

Bylaw banning solvents at Whitedog tested in court

By Garett Williams - March 10, 2009

Grabbing the bull by the horns, Wabaseemoong First Nation registered its first conviction under a bylaw banning inhalants Monday.

The bylaw, voted on by the community in March 2008, prohibits the sale, manufacture, possession and consumption of inhalants in the First Nation “to protect the community and the community members against the injurious effects of intoxicating substance abuse.”

In its first test through the court, Michelle Mandamin, 31, pled guilty to bringing two 3.78 litre cans of lacquer into the community, which she could sell for as much as $800, prosecutor Reid Thompson said.

“I think it sends a message to the solvent sellers in our community that this law is real,” Chief Eric Fisher said, noting the current bylaw is the First Nation’s third attempt to control inhalants.

Mandamin was charged in October when the car she was riding in was reported being used to bring solvents into the community. Through the plea, she took full responsibility for the inhalants, saying the vehicle’s driver was unaware she had the canisters.

Charges were withdrawn against the driver and Mandamin was given six months to pay a $400 fine. The maximum sentence under the bylaw carries up to 30 days custody and a fine of $1,000.

“The only disappointment that I had was the Crown not willing to prosecute it to a point where we had to hire David Gibson (and associates) to prosecute on our behalf,” Fisher said.