Blue Line

Manitoba Grand Chief throws support behind giving police power to enforce First Nations laws, bylaws

June 26, 2023  By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

June 26, 2023, Winnipeg, Man. – A Manitoba Grand Chief says he is throwing his support behind two new bills introduced in the House of Commons last week that would give police greater powers and a greater mandate to enforce First Nations laws and bylaws in First Nations communities.

Last Thursday, Senator MaryJane McCallum, a member of the Barren Lands First Nation, introduced two private member’s bills that propose amendments to both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, and the Director of Public Prosecutions Act.

McCallum said the bills would “provide certainty for the recognition, enforcement and prosecution of First Nation laws and bylaws.”

A First Nation bylaw, also referred to as a band bylaw, is a local law passed by a First Nation council that governs the activity of those on all reserve lands under the control of that council, and First Nations bylaws apply to anyone present on the reserve, regardless of whether they are a band member, or live on the reserve.

But Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee, the leader of a group that represents and advocates for 26 First Nations communities in Manitoba, said that many believe First Nation bylaws enacted by the Indian Act have not been adequately recognized or enforced in Manitoba for “decades.”

“First Nation bylaws enacted pursuant to the Indian Act have not been enforced or prosecuted for going on three decades in this province,” Settee claimed in a recent media release.

“Even though First Nation bylaws have the force and effect of a federal regulation, our Land Code Laws enacted by First Nations have not been enforced or prosecuted in Manitoba since at least 1999.”

In a written submission sent to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance in December of 2022, MKO asked that the committee recommend amendments to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Director of Public Prosecutions Act to “ensure the recognition, respect, enforcement, and prosecution of First Nation Land Code Laws.”

Settee said he and other MKO officials will continue to push to see changes that would see First Nations bylaws applied and enforced in First Nations communities, and MKO officials plan to travel to Ottawa to push for those changes.

“MKO looks forward to appearing before Standing Committees in the Senate and the House of Commons together with Chief Robert Louie, Chairman of the Lands Advisory Board, to support the speedy consideration and passage of these important Private Members’ Bills, which have been initially proposed, developed and pursued by First Nations,” Settee said.

“These important amendments to the RCMP Act and the Director of Public Prosecutions Act proposed by Senator McCallum are essential for First Nations to effectively apply First Nation laws to protect health and public safety in First Nation communities.”

– Winnipeg Sun

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