Montreal Lake Cree Nation chief disappointed with comments from Prince Albert city councillor

A City Councillor is under fire for comments made to a local news station about the rising crime levels in Prince Albert.

An Open Letter addressed to City Council from Chief Joyce Naytowhow-McLeod of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation says she is disappointed with Councillor Blake Edwards’ comments in a recent news article published by paNOW. 

In the article titled, “Stop blaming and bring solutions: city councillor on crime in P.A”, Ward 6 Coun. Edwards said he is tired of blame being spread for the growing violent crime rate around the city without solutions being put forward. He believes that leaders from outlying communities should be working to help find a solution for the migration of people coming to Prince Albert with addictions and their resulting violent behaviour.

The article included a 2020 report written by Dale Eisler that stated an estimated 60% of residents in Montreal Lake are addicted to crystal meth. 

“It’s not OK for communities to ban their own residents and allow that resident to come here to Prince Albert to wreak the same havoc,” said Coun. Edwards. “Many families are dropping their own family members off in our city saying ‘here Prince Albert, you deal with our problem’, what solution is that?”

Chief Naytowhow-Mcleod counters in her letter that Edwards is simplifying a complex issue by insinuating that First Nation organisations are either unaware of the challenges faced by their members in an urban setting, or are denying it. 

“The City can not divorce itself from this challenge by blaming the inaction of other organisations,” Naytowhow-Mcleod said. “To single out our community is creating a stereotypical image that affects all First Nations people. The resulting image plays into thinly-veiled racism.”  

Naytowhow-Mcleod says historical trauma and the resulting socio-economic dynamics that create an environment of which crime is a consequence cannot be overlooked when finding solutions to urban challenges. 

“Yes, crime in and of itself is a problem,” she said. “But, it does not exist in isolation.”

Edwards states in the article that the growing issues are too much for the City to handle alone, and that he is planning to propose a motion in the near future to create a working group to tackle these challenges. He suggested that local MLA’s, members from the federal liberal party, the chiefs from local First Nations, and FSIN leaders should be gathered to find solutions together. 

At the end of her letter, Chief Naytowhow-Mcleod invites City Council to meet and discuss with the Montreal Lake First Nation in a “meaningful, non-judgmental manner so that we can walk the same path together rather than in different directions”. 

The Daily Herald reached out to Edwards for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.

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