06/22/2017 19:15 EDT | Updated 06/23/2017 11:03 EDT

New North leaders want to punish drug dealers, but reject banishment

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A number of municipal leaders at the New North annual meeting have delivered passionate speeches on drug-involved crime and addiction in their communities.

La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre says he wants harsher penalties for drug dealers.

But he also notes that dealers and users are "all community members — they are all family."

His comments were made in response to a motion for New North to lobby the federal government and the province to give local governments more powers to punish with drug dealers — including banishment.

The motion was made by Ile-a-la-Crosse Mayor Duane Favel, who acknowledged the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to banish people from municipalities, and later said he used that extreme example to stimulate meaningful dialogue.

The motion was passed, but the idea of banishment was struck down.

Buffalo Narrows Mayor Bobby Woods said banishment just passes “off our problem off to another community.”

St. Pierre said treatment is a necessity for users and that "banishment doesn't cut it. We need to heal. If we want to move forward we need to heal."

While St. Pierre said more people need to speak up to RCMP about drug dealing, Sandy Bay Mayor Paul Morin said reporting crime is not easy when — as it often is in the close-knit communities — the offender is a family member.

“There’s internal consequences that follow that,” he said.

Favel said all communities clearly understand they need a well-rounded approach to addiction which draws from law enforcement, preventative education, and treatment “and right now that’s non-existent in our northern communities.”

He said in his decade or so with New North he’s heard the same conversation on addiction and crime many times over, and his motion is intended to bring about action and more “frank” discussions with higher levels of government.

(MBC Radio)