Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) has declared a State of Emergency following the death of a 17-year-old from Deschambault Lake.
PBCN Chief Karen Bird said the death has “profoundly impacted” the community, but it is only the most recent act in an escalating cycle of violence.
“The constant sound of gunfire has left our members in a constant state of concern and distress due to the relentless violence,” Bird said in a media release. “Although these incidents demand our immediate attention, we stand firm in our resolve (to) not be ruled by fear.”
RCMP officers found the 17-year-old youth dead on a street in Deschambault Lake the evening of Oct. 1. They were originally called to the scene at around 11:15 p.m. following reports of an injured person.
Investigators have arrested two people in connection with the case. The first, a 17-year-old girl, cannot be identified under the youth criminal justice act. The second, 27-year-old Tristan Custer of Deschambault Lake, made his first court appearance on Monday. Both have been charged with second degree murder.
Bird said the violence not only has community members distressed, it has led to a halt in community services as professionals express concerns about their safety.
PBCN leadership has increased security measures, Bird said, but community tensions remain high. Historically, PBCN has one of the highest crime rates in Saskatchewan, and faces other challenges like inadequate housing, and high unemployment.
“The resilience of our community has been tested time and again, but the tragic loss of a young life emphasizes the critical need for continuous and ongoing support, resources, and community solidarity,” Bird said. “For years, our communities have faced systematic challenges. This crisis underscores our urgent need for sufficient resources, funding, and support that will guarantee a safe and secure environment for all of our members.”
The is the third time in less than a year that PBCN has declared a state of emergency. The last declaration came on Jan. 11, 2023 after a tragic event in Pelican Narrows that led to increased security measures and a community-wide curfew. The first declaration came on Nov. 4, 2022.
Bird said their existing challenges like a rise in crime and substance abuse underscore the need for stronger community safety initiatives. High unemployment and a lack of adequate housing are also concerns.
PBCN leaders have scheduled a meeting with Indigenous Services Canada officials in the upcoming week to deal with these issues.