HOBBEMA — Samson Cree Nation is fighting back against crime by developing a bylaw to evict “undesirables” and strip them of their band entitlements.
Samson Cree Nation and RCMP made the joint announcement on Wednesday as the Hobbema community heals from its second shooting death in two months.
With the autopsy complete, RCMP confirmed the identity of Monday’s shooting victim. Chelsea Yellowbird, 23, of Samson Cree, was gunned down outside a home early in the morning, next door to where her nephew Ethan Yellowbird, five, was shot. He was asleep in his bed in Samson Cree townsite when a bullet was shot from outside his home.
“We will get rid of the undesirables, the people who are responsible for a lot of this activity,” said Kirk Buffalo, a Samson Cree band councillor.
If the bylaw is approved in a community vote to be held in a few weeks, it will be sent to Ottawa and put into effect as soon as possible, he said.
Hobbema RCMP Sgt. Ralph Cardinal first brought forward the idea of an eviction bylaw to Hobbema First Nations in 2008 after seeing its impact at Enoch Cree Nation.
Cardinal said Samson Cree would be the first and the largest of the four Hobbema bands to adopt the bylaw that would deal with people accused or convicted of gang-related crimes like drug trafficking, domestic violence, and more.
“We can even go to the point of impaired drivers who are causing havoc within the community,” Cardinal said.
People would be stripped of their entitlements, like social assistance, from Samson Cree. To return, they would have to plead their case to the First Nation with proof of what they have done to improve themselves.
Buffalo said gun amnesty will also be re-introduced to encourage residents to turn over illegal or unwanted firearms and ammunition to RCMP.
To improve safety at Samson Cree the band has already demolished 11 abandoned or fire-damaged homes to reduce possible sites of illegal activity, and has cut down brush where people scatter to evade police.
“Eventually they’ll have nowhere to hide,” Buffalo said.
More lights will be installed in the townsite to assist police in the community plagued by gang violence.
Cardinal said Samson Cree isn’t the only community with problems, but it is located along the busy Edmonton and Calgary traffic corridor with media in close proximity to report on its crime within minutes.
He said calls to police have spiked this year, but some of the shooting complaints have turned out to be children playing with fireworks.
Investigation continues into Monday’s shooting which police suspect may be connected to a homicide that happened in December, he said.
Police have laid firearm charges against two people in connection to a shooting that happened on Monday in the same area after Yellowbird was shot. No details were available.
Both Buffalo and Cardinal called on residents to come forward if they have information that could assist police with unsolved crimes.
Buffalo said a lot of the gang and drug activity can be traced back to parents and the loss of identity with the Cree culture and language.
But there is hope for the community if people come together, he said demonstrating with a braid of sweet grass.
“One of these by itself, we can break,” said Buffalo pulling a piece of sweet grass from the braid and snapping it in pieces. “But if the community binds together as one, you can’t break it,” he said tugging on the braid.
“I’m confident and truly believe we will get over this and we will make Samson Cree a safe community.”