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Bands Charged With Illegal Gaming Operations: Will Continue To Run Bingos

Gloria Ledoux

Representatives from Ochapowace, Sakimay and Kahkewistahaw met with their legal counsel, David Knoll, and the FSIN Executive on September 11 and 12 at the Cowesses Education Centre.

The bands were charged under the criminal code for having illegal gaming operations, by holding a bingo on Kahkewistahaw Reserve. The bands claim this is a violation of Treaty Rights. The Chiefs claim the province has absolutely no jurisdiction on Indian territory, therefore, the gaming laws of the province do not apply. The Chiefs believe the province is out of its jurisdiction.

"We shall fight in the courts and go up to the Supreme Court of Canada, if necessary". "This is not just our cause, it is the cause of all Indian people."

A response from Bob Andrew, Minister of Justice and Attorney General quoted Treaty 4 which clearly states:

"And the undersigned Chiefs and headman on their own behalf, and on behalf of all other Indians inhabiting the tract within ceded, do hereby solemnly promise and engage to strictly observe this Treaty and also to conduct and behave themselves as good and loyal subjects of Her Majesty the Queen" .... "they will assist the officers of Her Majesty in bringing to justice and punishment any Indian offending against, the stipulations of this Treaty, or infringing the laws in force in the country so ceded."

Dave Knoll, the lawyer for the bands, outlined the current state of affairs. The charges resulted in a conviction in Provincial Court and an appeal of that conviction to the Court of Queens Bench is underway. In the meantime, the RCMP have indicated they will lay new charges it the bingos continue to operate after October 1, 1989.

A far reaching discussion of the political and legal options open to the bands followed. The bands indicated they would like to obtain a political solution if possible. Much of the discussion centred in this arena by passing laws and regulations of their own under their inherent right to govern themselves or under the Indian Act provisions.

Chief Crowe made the point that while Indian people are debating over whether they should pass law as under the Indian Act on using their inherent rights, the courts are considering each case and often setting poor precedents. He suggested that bands should consider drafting laws as both customary laws and bylaws under the Indian Act. "If INAC accepts the bylaw so much the better, if not, than the customary arguments would come into force," Chief Crowe stated.

Chief Crowe summarized the discussions by outlining the following list of steps to be taken:

• Bands should hold a referendum or plebiscite to show the band members support for the bingos. Dave Knoll could assist with the wording.

• Based on the referendum, the bands would pass laws as previously discussed.

• The FSIN will meet with the RCMP and suggest that further charges should wait the results of the Appeal.

• Dave Knoll would approach the Attorney General's department on the same basis.

• The bands should consider getting the media involved if the RCMP moves to lay further charges. Band leadership could issue a public statement about the sovereignty of the bands and their treaty rights.

• Indian people should seek to align themselves with non-Indian people who are also protecting against the lottery and gambling taxes.

Henry Delorme, received a motion of support from the FSIN Executive in support of the band in their struggle to establish sovereignty in this area.

On Tuesday, September 12 the FSIN Executive met with members of the RCMP. Inspector McGibbon was adamant he cannot turn the othercheek while someone is breaking the law.

"We shall fight in the courts and go up to the Supreme Court of Canada, if necessary... This is not just our cause, it is the cause of all Indian people."