The chief of Esgenoopetitj First Nation in New Brunswick submitted a heartfelt victim impact statement at the sentencing of a Fredericton man, saying communities like his are easy targets for drug traffickers and their wares.
"They prey on the vulnerable people who are already dealing with addictions and young family members who have no control over the head of the household who are spending their income assistance on these drugs sold by our community member," wrote Chief Alvery Paul in the statement.
He submitted it on behalf of his community at the Dec. 1 sentencing for Jesse Joe, 35, in Miramichi provincial court.
Joe received 66 months in prison on a number of charges related to drug trafficking of a controlled substance, including a charge of trafficking fentanyl.
The charges were laid following several overdoses in the community on April 11. One person, Ann Marie Lambert died of an overdose, but to date, no charges have been laid in relation to her death.
"The illegal drug fentanyl that entered into our community caused several near deaths and one death that is still being determined under investigation," Paul wrote in his statement.
After being found guilty of trafficking in a controlled substance and breach of probation in August, Joe faced more charges including criminal negligence causing bodily harm and obstruction of justice.
Joe eventually pleaded guilty to the charges, which led to the sentencing hearing.
In addition to the jail time, Joe must submit a DNA sample to the national DNA data bank. He was also given a lifetime ban of owning any firearms.
In the victim impact statement, Paul said the overdoses caused chaos for family members who witnessed the overdoses and had to deal with the aftermath.
"Not to mention the innocent children who are going without the basic daily necessities due to the adults buying this drug for their addictions."
Paul also said the First Nation had to set up an emergency crisis centre to help people cope with the drug problem.
"It's been a constant struggle trying to keep our community free from the illegal drugs entering our community."
Paul wrote that since the arrests of Joe and others, the community has not dealt with any serious situations with fentanyl.
"It's unfortunate that Jesse Joe fell into the hands of the drug dealers' greed and took it upon himself to come into Esgenoopetitj and make fast money without considering the consequences."