Siksika Nation has created a local prosecution office in order to enforce its own bylaws, being the first of its kind to exist in Canada.
Calgary Area law firm, Mincher Koeman LLP was hired by Siksika Nation to establish the office. Prosecutors will be dedicated to enforcing Siksika bylaws passed by Chief and Council, with an eventual goal of hearing matters at the provincial court on reserve.
The announcement was made Oct. 28 at the Iitaipoyopi courthouse on Siksika Nation, following a traditional smudge and ceremony.
Sam Crowfoot, who sits on Siksika Chief and Council, said establishing the office is a big step forward towards self-governance, as well as to simply see an existing body to enforce Siksika bylaws.
“The Indian Act allows Chief and Council to pass bylaws in the interest of health and safety, and law and order. The problem was that we had nobody to enforce the bylaws,” he said. “The police would not enforce the bylaws because there was nobody to prosecute the bylaws, so we reached out to the Crown Prosecutor and they essentially told us no.”
Crowfoot added after becoming frustrated with not receiving satisfactory answers from other legal bodies as to why a local prosecutor’s office had not been established anywhere else, he set out to see a position created for Siksika Nation.
“Being able to use our sovereignty given to us in the Indian Act, given to us in the Constitution Section 35, and given to us in our treaty, and given to us in our God-given right by the Creator, we are using all of those powers to assert our sovereignty,” said Crowfoot.
With the establishment of the office, those coming onto the reserve, as well as residents, will be subject to bylaws passed by Chief and Council, just like any other municipality.
Some bylaws that may be locally enforced include those regarding trespassing, residency status, and protections for elderly and vulnerable persons. Serious criminal offences will remain under federal jurisdiction and courts.
Crowfoot added he believes establishing such an office for Siksika Nation is long overdue.
“It is going to make a (bigger) difference. We don’t have trespassing bylaw enforcement. We have a trespassing bylaw, it is just not enforced because a key piece of the puzzle has been missing,” he said.
“When we asked a Crown Prosecutor to enforce our bylaws, we were told no. I don’t like asking for things, I like doing things, and so we are doing it ourselves. We have the funding, we have the capability, we have the authority.”
The office and enforcement of local bylaws is not something that will happen overnight, as there are some logistics and procedures that require attention. Crowfoot estimates policies and procedures will see enforcement within the next few months, looking to January or February 2023.
He also encourages other First Nations to view Siksika as an example, and to follow suit instead of continuing to rely on other governing and law enforcement systems to resolve bylaw violations.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times