Saskatchewan First Nations are calling for “immediate and drastic action” by the RCMP amid a “rash of avoidable and preventable tragedies” among First Nations people in recent months.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron attributed deaths of First Nations people to drug and alcohol abuse, addictions, and mental health issues.
He said those deaths could have been avoided were it not for a “lack of proactive care and attention” by “those with the authority and capacity to address these issues.”
“Lives were lost due to the lack of strategic planning and action on behalf of the government and the RCMP,” Cameron said.
“All of these deaths were connected to drug and alcohol abuse and with proper action, they could have been prevented.”
The Saskatchewan RCMP told the Prince Albert Daily Herald in a written response that police are making every effort to address the issue.
“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the families of those who have lost loved ones. Our officers see the harm trafficking illegal drugs causes and we remain focused on investigating and charging those involved,” an RCMP spokesperson said in a written response.
“Our officers are committed to fostering strong relationships in the communities we serve. We will continue to work with our partner agencies to reduce harm in the communities we all call home.”
Cameron said many First Nations have also implemented Band Council Resolutions to banish drug dealers from their communities, but he said the RCMP refuses to enforce them.
He said it was “frustrating” to learn that the RCMP were notified by James Smith Cree Nation community members about the risks posed by this weekend’s assailant and about drug dealers in the community months ago — that he said were not investigated.
“Our people work with the RCMP, but the RCMP refuses to work with us,” Cameron said.
“RCMP inaction is a problem across the province. We’ve gotten calls from Beardy’s, Ochapowace, Flying Dust, and George Gordon First Nations. What will it take to get the RCMP to take our concerns seriously and protect our family members?”
According to a Statistics Canada report released this year police reported 201 Indigenous victims of homicide in 2020. The rate of homicide for Indigenous peoples was seven times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous people in Canada. Saskatchewan had the highest rates of homicide among the provinces — more than five homicides per 100,000 people.
The FSIN executive said in a written statement that current policing practices don’t deliver any long term, strategic plans for First Nations that can be measured.
“They just respond to clean up the aftermath of violent and tragic events — this is not community policing. This is not reconciliation,” the executive wrote.
First Nations want the RCMP and federal government to prioritize community policing — that would involve collaborative, strategic planning from all community policing partners.
“These victims lost their lives, this tragedy and many others are impacting our people and our communities, this all occurred on your watch,” Cameron said.
“We demand action now — drug dealers and destructive activity that harm our First Nations are not welcome in our communities.”