Pelican Narrows a ‘hurting community’ says Chief

PBCN Chief Karen Bird, with former chief of Saskatoon and Prince Albert police forces, Troy Cooper. Cooper will head up the PBCN Community Safety Plan. Photo courtesy of PBCN.

Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) Chief and Council hosted a news conference in Prince Albert to reach out for help for one of their eight communities, Pelican Narrows on Feb. 5.

“That’s a hurting community crying out for help,” Chief Karen Bird said at the beginning of the news conference.

She said PBCN has been asking for help from all levels of government in the past months.

It’s about violence in the community, she said and it’s affecting every part, including employment, healthcare, generational trauma addictions.

“It’s a crisis, more than just a rough patch. It’s an emergency that got us calling for help.”

She spoke of the crime, mental health and addictions, intergenerational trauma and the need for more resources to combat the crime, which is resulting in shooting happening daily.

“We need more people on the ground, nurses, security folks … we need the right tools and gear to keep our healthcare heroes and everyone safe. We need laws … they need to be followed and enforced and we need the basics for those who come to help us. A place to stay, a place to heal from addictions,” she said.

Councillor Sarah Swan talked about fear.

“In Pelican, every day we hear gunshots. We live in Fear. Elders, children stay in their houses. Children can’t even play outside. Our Elders can’t even go visiting. … we want peace,” she said

Swan spoke about the need for detox and a healing lodge.

“We need to go back to the land. We need healing. We need our language back.”

She spoke about the residential school intergenerational trauma in the community and the meth.

“Meth is all over town and our youth are crying .. we need our safety back and our peace.”

She says she is still learning and healing from her residential school experience and loss of language.

Councillor Elizabeth Michel spoke about the daily gunshots.

“It has escalated to everyday, there’s drive by shootings in our homes,” she said.

Michel also spoke about the need for the RCMP to assist and reinforce bylaws and Council BCRs and a recent lockdown at the school.

“Our children and youth deserve to feel safe in their homes, their schools and their communities … the violence we live with today is not normal and we are pleading for help now … whoever’s ears are open to listen. Thank you.”

Councillor Thomas Linklater talked about the hard work frontline workers and responders are doing in the community.

“They work tirelessly to help our people. Everyone’s working hard right now with no time off despite that the violence continues to escalate.”

He also noted the community of more than 4,000, needs base facilities, detox, mental health supports and equipment.

Sarah Van den Broeck is a nurse in Pelican Narrow and she spoke on behalf of the Angelique Canada Health Centre, where she has worked for seven years.

She said the violence has escalated over the past two years, but more intensely in the past six months.

Van den Broeck gave an example of her workload in the previous few days before the news conference.

“Just to give you an example, in the last few days we have medevacked 15 emergency cases … In the last few days I medevacked out a 16-year-old shot in the face, machete attacks with wounds to the head and pedestrians have been struck by vehicles. Another 15-year-old was a victim of gunshot wounds to his chest, legs arms and face. We have had gunshot wounds to the chest resulting in test tubes having to be put into one … we are literally exhausted.”

She said they are afraid to go out on the deck, take their dogs for a walk or go snowshoeing.

And “on top of this we are frequently on social media [held] responsible …  people are dying and do our best to provide quality care to our patients.”

She said, all the health staff could go elsewhere, but they choose to come and work in Pelican. We love the community. We love the people and want to serve them.”

The Health staff cannot continues to give the level of care require while they deal with the trauma daily.

The staff works from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and then are expected to be on call.

There are two nurses on call providing care for 16 hours from 5:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. and four working on weekends.

The care they are providing leaves much of the other health concerns without service, she said.

“We no longer provide the level of care to our daytime members of the community such as our prenatal population, children needing immunization, chronic conditions, programming,” Van den Brock said.

“Right now, there is an outbreak of syphilis in the community, which we are unable to get on top of and the TB program did have to take a back seat.”

The RCMP and PBCN issued a joint news release Feb. 12 following a ‘targeted enforcement project, “aimed at removing dangerous weapons and illicit drugs from the community of Pelican Narrows Feb. 9 to 11,” quoted from the news release.

Members of the Pelican Narrows RCMP Detachment and La Ronge Crime Reduction Team (CRT)

During the operation officers “seized five illegal firearms, 210 grams of methamphetamine and contraband alcohol during various enforcement efforts. Twelve people were arrested, charged and remanded into custody as a result of the investigation,” quoted from the news release.

On Friday, Feb. 23, PBCN announced they have enlisted former Saskatoon and Prince Albert Police Chief Troy Cooper, to head up the community’s new Community Safety Plan.

“Bringing Troy Cooper on board is a pivotal step in our efforts to on front the serious issues of drugs, gangs and violence within our communities. His extensive policing background provides the insights and expertise we need to navigate our community toward a safer, more secure future,” Chief Karen Bird is quoted as saying in the news release.