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Siksika Nations new bylaw prosecutor's office a 1st for Canada

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

After serving as a Judge and prosecutor for the tribal court system in the United States for 20 years, Samuel Crowfoot has returned to his Southern Alberta First Nation to blaze a path toward reconciliation. Armed with $1.3 billion and Samuel Crowfoot’s extensive education and expertise, the Siksika Nation is set to implement its own justice system, announcing last week the opening of their own prosecution office. The prosecution office is the first step toward creating their own judicial system with their own courts, judges, and constitution- a first in Canada.[1]

Welcome sign to Siksika Nation. Photo provided by:

Reaching this point didn’t always seem possible. Initial discussions with Alberta Chief Judge Derek Redman and prosecutors made it even seem incomprehensible. But Samuel Crowfoot isn’t one to back down. Leveraging his decades of experience, he argued that “Siksika had two permissible…umbrellas they could operate under: “[as] a government having a prosecutor represent our bylaws in court or we are a private client hiring a lawyer to act as our lawyer to litigate a civil case for us.” [2] Ultimately, Crowfoot succeeded, and the calls for prosecutors went out in March 2022, with the final selection of Calgary law firm, Mincher Koeman LLP occurring in August. [3]

Lynsey Mincher, left, is sworn in as prosecutor for Siksika Nation by Chief Ouray Crowfoot. Photo provided by:

While Mincher Koeman LLP will serve as prosecutors, it is the resolutions of the Band Council that will provide the checks and balances to process and prosecute band members without any favouritism. Work can begin right away. Siksika, under their powers in the Indian Act, has the authority to make bylaws and has already established bylaws to be enforced, including those for trespassing and littering. [4] But Council has much bigger plans. They will soon begin passing bylaws for the protection of Elders and vulnerable people. The bylaws will have penalties, fines, and possible jail time as Nations have “sentencing powers given to [them] under the Indian Act.” [5]

The prosecutors will also begin training the Siksika peace officers, who will now be able to enforce bylaws, on how to write reports and testify in court. The community anticipates that they will have one day per week at their provincial courthouse, but sees the demand increasing as more bylaws are passed. [6] While the focus is currently on civil matters, “Crowfoot says Siksika will exercise jurisdiction over criminal manners when it eventually employs its own justice system.”[7] Crowfoot anticipates using healing circles, alternative dispute resolutions, and restorative justice processes as they expand their powers.

While the changes won’t happen overnight, the entire system, from start to finish, will reflect their values, culture, community, and language. But the community, and Crowfoot, are confident that Siksika will become a successful model for other nations to implement justice systems of their own.

Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

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