Community input needed for intoxicants bylaw

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Councillor Mike Morris presenting beside lawyer Simon Owen 

Kasabonika Lake News
Tyance Anderson
January 20, 2017

Kasabonika Lake Chief and Council are considering creating an intoxicants bylaw in an effort to abolish drug and alcohol consumption on reserve.

Kasabonika has been a dry reserve since the band was formed in the 1970s, but that hasn’t stopped residents from making homebrew or bringing contraband in.

A community meeting was held on January 17 about the bylaw creation.

Councillor Mike Morris invited the lawyer who helped create the Bearskin Lake intoxicants bylaw to speak. Morris says Kasabonika’s circumstances are different, but the bylaw can be used as a model. An inspector from the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services and the Shibogama Tribal Council NAPS board liaison also spoke.

After an opening prayer by Harry Semple, Chief Eno H. Anderson took the mic.

“Any bylaws adopted from the Indian Act are foreign,” he began. “You need to ask the community – what do they think of this?”

About thirty people were present, including high school students. Chief Eno also asked people to remember what was done in the past when someone makes a mistake.

“It’s hard for me to charge people, put them in prison. If he has a family, who’s going to look after the kids? Their needs are greater while this guy is sitting in jail – is this going to help him?” he said.

Right now, NAPS and Chief and Council often clash over enforcing current rules and laws.

“Bylaws create issues for police,” said Inspector Darryl Snider who was present at the meeting. “We have to adhere to the laws of Canada.”

However Snider also said there is no better time to create this bylaw. NAPS will be increasing detachments from two to three officers per reserve, are revamping their program in 2018 and will receive more funding. X-ray scanners will also be installed at the Sioux Lookout and Timmins airports.

Councillor Morris criticized Snider’s comment about Canadian law, reminding the group that Canada became a country in 1867, and his great-great-grandfather was born in 1849.

“I went to a Residential School and they tried to beat the language out of us and here I am up here translating. That was their law,” said Morris. “I’ve been wrestling with that in my head.”

He said that as an Indigenous person, there are two sets of laws, and often non-native law wins.

Currently in Kasabonika, Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services host “circles,” getting offenders counselling, having them apologize or pay for damages, for example. Lawyer Simon Owen said this can be part of the bylaw.

“We need to remember the inherent right of this community to create a law that reflects its values and culture,” said Owen. “Canadian law has to change. We know that. It has to grow and this is a way to push it.”

At the end of the meeting, the Chief said Council is very interested in creating the bylaw, but he said they need to survey the community. 

“We’re all responsible for that person to get the proper support and help that he needs,” he said.

It’s estimated the bylaw could be drafted by the end of March 2017. At the end of the meeting each guest was gifted a pair of moccasins.

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From left to right: Jon Del Ben (KLFN Governance Advisor), Simon Owen (Lawyer), Elder Harry Semple, Chief Eno H. Anderson, Fabian Batise (NAPS Board Liaison), NAPS Inspector Darryl Snider, Councillor Mike Morris, Zacharius Tait (Shibogama Tribal Council NAPS Liaison)

 

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