An official with a southern Alberta reserve says he supports fed-up band members who charged drivers a toll this week to detour around a fatal crash.
Ken Christensen is tribal administrator with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation along the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary.
He says construction has created traffic jams since June and band members posted at the reserve's main entrance have been waving drivers off private property.
"Nation members own the reserve and people were illegally – I want to emphasize illegally – on the reserve using it as a detour route," he told CTV News.
On Monday, following a crash that killed an 86-year-old woman, RCMP rerouted vehicles to a public highway through the reserve, but some cars ended up on reserve roads.
Christensen says he has heard that some members pocketed tolls of $10 or $20, although motorists weren't forced to pay and could have taken the proper detour.
He says some people may not agree with charging money after an accident, but his concern is for the people in the crash, not drivers who wanted to save time.
Elder Roland Rollinmud agreed with Christensen, calling the toll justifiable.
"We've seen the Parks Canada collecting from going into the park. The reserve is just like a park to us," he told CBC News.
"And I do believe that I would do that if someone would come on my territorial, just like going through my backyard."
Reserve resident Aaron Two Young Men, however, told CTV News he doesn't think charging a toll and pocketing money was the right thing to do.
"It’s just a road," he said. "People (were) trying to get home."
Premier Rachel Notley called the detour and incident "unfortunate," but told the Calgary Herald what happened with the toll collection is out of the province's hands.
"We have to acknowledge that First Nations have rights on their reserve land akin to, or greater than, certainly private property owners. And you know, they are going to make those decisions and we don’t have jurisdiction on that," she said.
"Hopefully we won’t be in a position where we have to detour on that specific point on the highway in the future."
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