Calls for support for First Nations in Saskatchewan reignited in Prince Albert

The village of La Loche took to Facebook to call out vandalism that's been happening in the northern Saskatchewan community. File / Global News

Leaders from Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC), Metis Nation, Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC), and other First Nations in Saskatchewan have reignited calls for government support for Indigenous communities.

A meeting was held in Prince Albert on Friday, and MLTC Cree Vice Chief Richard Derocher said more needs to be done to address community safety.

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“Our communities are feeling very unsafe at this time,” Derocher said. “We have elders who are sleeping with guns, or bats close to their beds.”

He said he’s spoken with nurses in the surrounding communities who want security and fencing at health centres.

The northern community of La Loche took to Facebook about their safety concerns, saying there’s been ongoing vandalism in the community – holes being drilled in gas tanks and windows being broken on vehicles and houses.

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The post said hospital and school staff have left the community because they don’t feel safe.

Click to play video: 'Five years later, La Loche still healing from tragic school shooting'
Five years later, La Loche still healing from tragic school shooting

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) sent a statement about the situation in La Loche, noting that some measures have been taken to make their employees feel safe.

“The Saskatchewan Health Authority takes the safety and care of its employees very seriously. We strive to make our facilities safe for patients and the people that work in them, regardless of location,” read the statement.

“Specifically regarding the community of La Loche SHA staff have:

  • met with community leaders to discuss the ongoing safety and well-being of staff and collaborate on ways to curb negative behaviour in the community that may affect recruitment and retention of staff;
  • temporarily secured a local security company to patrol the perimeter of the hospital and all units during the evening seven days a week until a permanent security plan can be confirmed;
  • upgraded security systems by installing new alarms and repairing or updating existing systems that required attention; and,
  • been working closely with various levels of government to ensure tall grass and trees that obstruct lines of sight are cut or cleared.”

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Global News reached out to the Saskatchewan RCMP for comment on what was happening in La Loche, and was told officers had been investigating multiple reports of break-ins in the community.

A 35-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man from La Loche were charged with break and enter and theft, as well as theft under $5,000.

The man faced additional charges of disguise with intent; failure to comply with probation; two counts of assaulting a peace officer; resisting arrest; possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose; two counts of break and enter and commit; two counts of theft under $5,000; two counts of mischief under $5,000; and possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000.

Chief Norma Catarat from Buffalo River Dene Nation said she has been trying to make changes for her community.

“I’ve been knocking on doors for the past few months,” Catarat said.

She said she’s frustrated, and wants the government to come with resources for their community.

Chief Teddy Clarke of Clearwater Dene Nation said a stronger police presence could help.

“A lot of our communities have seen a lot of struggles,” Clarke said.

“These Band-Aid solutions that have been thrown at us for many many years needs to stop.”

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He said RCMP in the area are overworked, but added that when they get there, things settle down, and he wonders what it would look like if his community had more officers in the area.

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Glen Callum, president of Metis Nation, said he’s lost many community members due to suicide, and a plan needs to be made.

“Governments have got to start thinking outside the box,” Callum said.

He wants the government to come and formulize a plan with them to combat drugs and violence.

PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte echoed many of the same sentiments, saying he wants to work with the government, build awareness and work to improve police response times and mental health supports.

PAGC Vice Chief Joseph Tsannie said he wants to acknowledge the front-line workers in their northern communities, saying many of the programs for their communities are understaffed, underpaid and underfunded.

He added there should have had solutions a long time ago.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re not part of this province,” Tsannie said.

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