Onion Lake Cree Nation declares state of emergency over suspected gang and drug-related crime

Onion Lake Cree Nation Okimaw Henry Louis (front centre) and FSIN Vice-Chief Dutch Lerat (front right) at a news conference announcing a state of emergency for gang and drug-related crime. (Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations/Facebook)

A Saskatchewan First Nation is seeking solutions to suspected drug and gang-related crime that overflowed earlier this week.

Onion Lake Cree Nation—a community of about 4,000 people—has experienced three deaths related to drug and gang activity within the last two months along with several high-speed chases and violent crimes.

On Tuesday, Onion Lake experienced three of these occurrences leading the chief and council to have an emergency meeting the following day.

In the early afternoon of Jan. 21, RCMP were involved in a high-speed chase through the community.

Within a few hours of the chase, a search and rescue crew discovered human remains.

RCMP say they received a report at about 7 p.m. of a deceased person, who was later identified as 32-year-old Braden Richard Bull of Pine Lake First Nation. The Saskatchewan RCMP Provincial General Investigation Section continues to investigate the matter with assistance from other RCMP units, including the Onion Lake detachment.

Later that evening after a hockey game at the Onion Lake Cree Nation arena, the driver of a stolen vehicle was speeding and lost control. The person drove into the parking lot of the arena and collided with the side wall, causing “extensive damage.”

Local officials found what they believe to be gang-affiliated graffiti inside the vehicle.

“This problem has been steadily increasing over the last year and it is now to the point that we are having three very serious and scary incidences happening in one day. Everyone is stretched to their limits,” said Okimaw Henry Louis in a news release.

In a press conference streamed by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), he said they’ve established a command centre and team to address the problem.

They’ve been evicting houses involved in drug trafficking and gang activity.

Part of the team’s short-term plan is to establish safe housing for people affected by the crimes.

“They want out, period,” said Louis.

“Right now we are trying to deal with the immediate situation, how we can curb the fear that’s among this nation.”

However, as he explained, Onion Lake needs support from government for long-term resources. One of the things they need is a detox centre, he said.

Louis acknowledged the RCMP’s Crime Reduction Unit, saying they’ll be deploying more personnel: “We’re maxed out.”

“The RCMP are working hard and trying their best, but they need more help. Their resources are stretched too thin.”

The FSIN joined Onion Lake’s chief and council at the conference.

“We’re here to provide where we can, what we can,” said Vice-Chief Dutch Lerat.

“Every citizen of the nation deserves to greet each day knowing that their children, their families and their relatives are safe from illegal drug activity and violent crimes.”

Onion Lake Cree Nation is located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster.