‘It is a crisis’: Northern Sask. First Nation reinstating state of emergency

Click to play video: '‘It is a crisis’: Northern Sask. First Nation reinstating state of emergency'
‘It is a crisis’: Northern Sask. First Nation reinstating state of emergency
Chief Bobby Cameron from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said more policing resources were needed – Oct 6, 2022

A northern Saskatchewan First Nation is re-issuing its state of emergency and calling for federal support to control crime.

Buffalo River Dene Nation made the announcement Wednesday, adding that this followed an incident of gang violence, a rise of illicit drugs, and a recent assault of elders in the community.

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Chief Norma Catarat from the First Nation said an elder was assaulted by someone who had been released from the Pine Grove Correctional Centre.

“People are feeling powerless. The gang violence, the drug war, the crystal meth,” Catarat said.

She said arson is also occurring, noting that vehicles and homes are being burnt.

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“We need to take extreme measures, and we are calling on the federal and provincial government.”

Catarat said their own resources are going into security.

“For a small community to have three gang affiliations, gangs driving around with handguns intimidating people. Elders sitting at night with a gun loaded so their wife can sleep because their grandkids are affiliated with gangs.”

She said their community is very close to having a loss, and they are asking for support.

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Catarat noted that there were no detox centres or mental health supports in the community.

“We have to drive six hours to see a mental health therapist. For detox, you have to be on a waiting list.”

Several community members and chiefs spoke on the matter, all calling for immediate action.

Tribal Chief Richard Ben from Meadow Lake Tribal Council also spoke, saying more aggressive approaches to preventative measures and intervention strategies were needed.

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“We acknowledge that gang violence is not a new issue in our communities. However, Buffalo River Dene Nation is operating beyond the capacity of its government and existing legal authorities, and needs immediate emergency assistance,” Ben said.

Click to play video: 'Understanding why young people join gangs'
Understanding why young people join gangs

“Our leaders want to completely revamp the policing and justice systems from incorporating Community Safety Officers program to reviewing the current policies on returning gang members back into our communities.”

Chief Bobby Cameron from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said more policing resources were needed.

“To help Buffalo River Dene Nation, they must be provided with additional funding for expanded RCMP services along with resources to deal with the gang violence before this crisis escalates any further. In early June we joined in their calls for added services and resources and now their situation is only becoming worse,” Cameron said.

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FSIN Vice Chief Aly Bear said these were problems happening all over Canada, and the traditional governance systems needed to be reinstated.

“We talk about reconciliation, but what does that mean? Thank you for wearing an orange shirt, but we need to do more than that now,” said Bear.

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She added that we need to work to make people feel safe in their communities again.

FSIN Vice Chief Edward Lerat agreed that they needed to get back to their traditional systems, and help is needed to do that.

“We have two initiatives in the province that we hope to build from,” Lerat said. “But we can’t do this in isolation. So we call on the provincial and federal governments to assist in this initiative.”

FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear said these were the true realities of many First Nations.

She said it was about community safety – everyone should feel safe in their community, in their homes and on the street.

“We need immediate action for this community. They’re in a crisis. Their school, their children, they deserve to be safe, they deserve to be protected from gangs. And I call on the gangs to please stop what you’re doing, and quit selling death to our people,” Heather said.

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