The Walrus: Why First Nations Shouldn’t Banish their Citizens

In late 1998, the Norway House Cree First Nations passed a band council resolution (BCR) banning residents from “selling, using, possessing, or promoting the illegal use of drugs, or use of alcohol on the Reserve.” Punishment included loss of jobs, loss of income assistance, public shaming, and, ultimately, banishment.

The nearby RCMP detachment turned over the names of eighty residents they believed were involved in activities covered by the new rules. The band council soon ordered Tron Gamblin and Angela Monias to appear before them and explain why they were on the RCMP’s list. Gamblin was forced to sign a letter promising to refrain from illegal activities. A few months later, in March 1999, Gamblin was found in possession of marijuana. Within days of his arrest, the couple received notice ordering them to vacate their home.

Believing his eviction was against the law, Gamblin ignored the order. On March 30th, the band council issued a new BCR, banishing Gamblin and his family immediately. The next day, Gamblin was escorted off reserve by police. Monias and her child were taken by social workers.

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