Poundmaker Cree Nation wants to create its own police force to combat what they call a war on drugs.
The band council passed a resolution to kick people off the Nation and declared a state of emergency on March 24. Chief Duane Antoine said Poundmaker council has tried working with the Cut Knife RCMP to enforce the band resolution but were told police don’t have authority to enforce band resolutions.
"The RCMP have a duty to protect our people and they are not doing their job, so we need to take matters into our own hands to fight the drug problem,” said Chief Antoine.
Saskatchewan RCMP has been, and continues to meet with Poundmaker First Nation leadership, said Cpl. Marianne Coulibaly, Saskatchewan RCMP Media Relations on March 25.
“This particular conversation began on March 17, 2021, and we are committed to continue to work to address community safety concerns,” said Cpl. Coulibaly.
“It is important to note that any enforcement activity undertaken by the RCMP must respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Cpl. Coulibaly. “Current justice processes do not have a mechanism for prosecuting Band Council resolutions and bylaws. As a result we are working to find a mutually agreeable solution, where we can legally enforce laws and support the Poundmaker Council in the shared goal to protect children, Elders and Band Members.”
Chief Antoine said since band council resolutions don’t hold any weight for police enforcement then the federal government is liable.
“The government needs to listen and work with us, and we will do whatever it takes to have our own police force.
"We are taking a unified approach and zero tolerance policy to fight drug abuse and trafficking by kicking out band members and non-band members through a Band Council Resolution in order to protect our community, especially our children and Elders who are suffering from this exposure to the drug scene within the Nation,” said Chief Antoine.
On March 30 Poundmaker Cree Nation will host Chiefs from other Nations to discuss these issues and solutions to the drug epidemic they say is threatening their communities. Poundmaker is also calling on other Nations to declare a state of emergency in their war on drugs, and join Poundmaker in their fight to protect children, Elders, and members, said Chief Antoine.
In January 2020, Onion Lake Cree Nation declared a state of emergency after a string of gang and drug-related violence threatened the safety of its 4,000 residents. After declaring a state of emergency the leadership boarded up more than a dozen suspected meth houses and drove out those believed to be street gang members.
Onion Lake Cree Nation is about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster and borders Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Poundmaker Cree Nation is near Cut Knife, about 64 kilometres northwest of North Battleford.
Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist