A northern First Nation is reissuing a state of emergency in the wake of a rise in gang violence against elders and use of crystal meth in the community.
“We are reissuing our state of emergency to stress the urgency of our situation after our Elders were physically attacked by an individual who was recently released from Pine Grove Correctional Centre. In spite of our meetings with the RCMP and staff, our community members are living in fear and do not feel safe in their homes,” said Chief Norma Catarat of the Buffalo River Dene Nation.
Catarat said the community feels powerless in their efforts to combat the escalating incidents of violence, such as shootings, stabbings, arson, and intimidation by violent gang members, who she claims are responsible for the epidemic of crystal meth.
“These crises have overwhelmed our ability to ensure the safety and well-being of our members, and, as an interim measure, we are calling for at least 20 additional security guards, along with self-defense courses as part of our larger strategy,” she said.
Tribal Chief Richard Ben of Meadow Lake Tribal Council said Buffalo River Dene Nation needs immediately emergency assistance because it is operating beyond the capacity of its government and existing legal authorities.
“It is time we take more aggressive approaches in our preventative and intervention strategies. Our leaders want to completely revamp the policing and justice systems from incorporating Community Safety Officers programming to reviewing the current policies on returning gang members back into our communities. We need to uphold our bylaws to keep our communities safe, while also ensuring culturally relevant interventions are in place to help our members find the best road to recovery,” said Ben.
“When one of our communities hurt, we all hurt,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “To help the 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 even further.”
Cameron said in early June, FSIN joined in Buffalo River’s calls for added services and resources, but their situation has only gotten worse.
“We do not allow our people, especially our Knowledge Keepers, to be living in a constant state of fear. It is imperative that the Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Corrections, Policing, and Public Safety work with us to immediately provide emergency relief to this community and support its long-term recovery efforts.”