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These communities are banning alleged criminals to protect themselves

Let down by Canada's legal system, First Nations are turning to the long tradition of expulsion.

Some of the largest Indigenous communities in Canada are turning to their own governing bodies — traditional and elected councils — and declaring that drug dealers and killers aren’t welcome, in an effort to empower and safeguard their band members.

This month, a group of women approached their elected Six Nations Council to place a lifetime ban on Peter Khill from the 18,000-hectare reserve in Ontario, for the death of its community member, Jonathan Styres.


Khill was acquitted earlier this year of second degree murder, after testifying that in February 2016 he’d awoken to the attempted theft of his truck, and believed that the 29-year-old Indigenous man he came upon had a gun. He claimed his military reservist training informed his self-defence reaction of shooting Styres twice with the loaded shotgun he’d brought outside. Styres was unarmed.

The case has drawn comparisons to not guilty verdicts rendered in the deaths of Colten Boushie, a young man killed by a farmer in Saskatchewan, and Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in Winnipeg’s Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover that belonged to the man acquitted of her murder.

Although Khill lives about 30 minutes away from the Six Nations reserve, the community’s elected-Chief and council unanimously passed the motion to ban Khill from the territory “for any form of business, travel or any other activities.” Similar actions, but for different reasons, have been taken in other communities, such as the Blood Tribe, in Alberta, which is battling against drug dealers, and the St Regis Mohawk Tribe, which recently released a list of 24 people who have been banned from the territory under a provision that allows them to exclude non tribal members who disrupt the peace.

This is the first time Six Nations has banned someone in recent memory.

They did not officially ban Kent Owen Hill — a community member who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Tashina General and their unborn child — although the traditional confederacy council made a statement in 2016 that he could not reside there. Other communities, including the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, banned him from relocating there.


“Expulsion is a tradition and it had dire consequences back in the day, you’d starve, you’d be subject to the environment, to other nations. You wouldn’t be protected,” said Nahnda Garlow, who alongside four other women Cheyenne Williams, Colleen Davis, Lindsay Monture, and Jill Styres petitioned Six Nations to take action.

"Expulsion is a tradition and it had dire consequences back in the day."

For the Haudenosaunee people, expulsion is rooted in the Great Law, which stated that if one killed or raped, they were banished from the community. In this case, it’s also an expression of how the Canadian judicial system is failing Indigenous people.

A 2014 report for the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations — written by then regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould (Canada's current justice minister) and her husband, Tim Raybould — outlines the historically Indigenous mechanisms to resolve disputes, which were rooted in social pressure by consensus building or shaming. More serious sanctions were dealt with not by imprisonment, but the “most severe form of punishment,” banishment from the community.

Present-day proposals to banish members have largely centred on drug dealers and have divided some reserves, with the pro-expulsion side butting up against those who think that either the Western justice system should deal with criminals, or that the community should embrace the person to work out their problems as a unit.


The Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Saskatchewan, the Siksika Nation in Alberta, and two New Brunswick communities — Esgenoopetitj, also known as Burnt Church and the Maliseet community of Tobique — are just some of the Indigenous communities across Canada that have enacted band council resolutions to expel drug traffickers since 2017.

Mark Hill, the Six Nations councillor that brought the motion forward to ban Khill, says that he did so because he thought a council-backed ban could be beneficial to an appeal of the acquittal, which is now in the works.

“In a sense, it was an easy decision because for one, he’s not from our community anyway, it’s not like we were banning a band member,” says Hill. “If council can get behind this and pressure every avenue in terms of getting the appeal, we’re doing a good job.”

Garlow says the ban is about much more than a push for an appeal. She pointed to commonalities between the cases of Boushie, Fontaine, and that of Jamie Gladue, who was convicted of killing her partner and whose case has changed sentencing provisions for Indigenous offenders.

“In terms of a miscarriage of justice for a loss of life,” says Garlow. “Indigenous people don’t have our own court where we could charge and try him in a jury of our peers. It feels like that’s what the rest of Canadians get.”

Indigenous trials often wind up with mostly non-Indigenous jurors, based on systemic problems in the selection practices and peremptory challenges used by lawyers to block potential jurors, which happened in the Boushie case.


Elected Chief Ava Hill says that the Six Nations Police will enforce the ban. “We see people going through our community all the time, and in fact we encourage people to come here and learn more about us, but in this case, we don’t want him here because he killed one of our community members and was found not guilty of doing it,” she says.

A Justice 4 Jon Facebook group – which boasts almost 2,000 members, versus the In Support of Peter Khill Facebook group, which is shy of 1,000 members – has helped rally support for the Styres’ family, along with is a GoFundMe that is raising money for his two daughters, and a letter campaign to Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s attorney general.

Meanwhile in southwestern Alberta, the Blood Tribe has implemented a trespass by-law to make it more difficult for drug traffickers to enter the second most populous reserve in Canada, after Six Nations. Since 2015, the community, also known as the Kanai First Nation, has declared a state of emergency twice over members overdosing on fentanyl and has banned several known drug dealers.

The by-law was passed by the Blood Tribe Council in May 2017, and forbids non-band members from entering without a permit (either a residency or entry permit) and charges non-members conducting business extra fees. (A permit isn’t necessary for attending public events, like pow wows, or shopping at authorized businesses on reserve.) According to the Blood Tribe’s website, “Blood Tribe Council has had ongoing concerns with respect to persons entering on the Blood Reserve for purposes related to the unlawful use and distribution of drugs to the detriment of Blood Tribe members.”


Blood Tribe councillor Joanne Lemieux says she’s seen a lot less drug activity since the by-law was passed, but adds that it’s always a work in progress.

The Blood Tribe’s police chief Kyle Melting Tallow says that the opioid situation on the reserve has not gone away, with a seizure of 202 suspected carfentanil pills on July 20.

"We have to fight this collectively to see actual real change within our Canadian justice system."

“The trespass by-law allows us to seek out people who are not from the nation, so anybody who’s driving in the private areas of the reserve — not the main highways — to stop them and check for a permit. Since that’s come into place, we’ve had a decrease in non-nation members in the private areas of the reserve.”

He says they saw a decrease in overdoses initially, but it’s starting to emerge again. “The overdoses have not completely gone away.”

Lemieux says she sees the by-law staying in place for the foreseeable future.

In addition to the by-law, the Blood Tribe is another Indigenous community that has banished people from it’s land. The police chief says that those banished are non-members, who have been subject to an investigation for drug trafficking or another crime.

“They’re released with the condition not to return to the Blood Tribe, because they are not acting in it’s best interest, and they are a detriment to the community,” he said.

Band members who live on-reserve and go through the judicial system may also be banned — the Blood Tribe will ask, during their bail hearing, that they be forbidden from returning to the territory as part of their release conditions. Melting Tallow estimates in total, less than a dozen people have been banished.

Councillor Mark Hill, from Six Nations, says that it’s all about asserting pressure on systems outside of the Indigenous community. “We’re standing with the remaining cases of injustice in this country, the Boushie family, the Fontaines, the Gladou, and now the Styres," he said. "So we have to fight this collectively to see actual real change within our Canadian justice system.”

Cover image of group who petitioned Six Nations Council to ban Peter Khill from their territory. Photo byJay McKinley.