Proposed bylaws include banishment, stricter curfews to curb drug problems among teens on Manitoba reserve
The chief of Sandy Bay First Nation says people caught trafficking drugs to youth in the Manitoba community will be banished from the reserve until they get rehabilitated.
“What really kicked it into gear was we had found some needles near our school so it really struck home,” said Sandy Bay Chief Lance Roulette.
“I’m very concerned of not only the effects that it has on our community right now, but also the future effects it could have on our children,” he said.
A motion was passed Monday, with full support of the band council, that aims to banish people who are charged with trafficking from the reserve, and enforce stricter curfews at night.
The new bylaw would also include drug testing for band employees.
Roulette said a legal team will meet soon with provincial justice department officials to determine how the new law could be implemented and enforced on the reserve, which is about 130 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
“We’d be looking at banishment to remove the individuals from the community,” Roulette said, adding the punishment would be lifted once the person gets help for a drug addiction.
“We have the involvement of our police department and also the justice department as well. Some of that could extend into restorative justice as well.”
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He said enforcing these laws won’t be easy, and he’s expecting to get some opposition from band members who may be concerned about human rights issues.
“It’s understandable that there may be some human rights laws that could speak against this, but I think we’re looking at more of the collective rights versus the individual rights for instances like this for health and safety.”
Roulette said drug use among youth is a common problem on many First Nations across the country, which have adopted similar anti-drug laws to combat the violence.
Curfew could be amended
The chief said many young people who are convicted of drug-related offences come back to the reserve after being released from custody, and that’s something he wants to avoid.
“So they jump right back in the community and that person could potentially relapse and get back into pushing or peddling the drugs in, and that’s what we don’t want,” he said.
Roulette said there are also plans to amend the existing curfew bylaw — which prohibts minors from being out on their own after 11 p.m. — to address concerns about children staying out late at night unsupervised. He wants the curfew to begin at 10 p.m.
Roulette said crystal meth and opioids are becoming the drugs of choice for youth on the First Nation.
“I’m more worried about the dramatic effects of kids becoming more suicidal,” he said.
“We just don’t want any of our youth to start going there on that process, and having a higher suicide rate based on the use of the drug itself.”
‘It’s getting out of hand’
It’s not the first time the community has tried to tackle the issue.
In 2011, under former chief Irvin McIvor, a similar anti-drug law was proposed, but never passed because of lack of support from other band councillors at the time.
“They should pursue it this time, push it,” said Kelly Beaulieu, a long-time resident of Sandy Bay who works as a security officer in the community.
“It’s getting out of hand. I see a lot of drugs being passed around on the reserve.”
Beaulieu said he’s seen an escalation in violence because of drugs.
“Well, there isn’t anything else to do here, they have nothing else,” he said, adding that more needs to be done to keep teens from getting bored and joining gangs.
“There’s nothing here for the children or teens to do,” Beaulieu said.
Beaulieu’s wife, Fran, said she’s also fed up.
“It used to be marijuana, and now there’s cocaine and prescription drugs,” she said.
“I’m all for the banishment because I don’t want people selling to our kids.”