The chief of Tobique First Nation says he's satisfied with the New Brunswick RCMP's response to a shooting last Friday but thinks the police agency isn't doing enough to prevent such incidents in the first place.
Chief Ross Perley said gun violence has been on the rise in the community in recent years, and the main reason is an increase in drug trafficking by people living either in or around the reserve just north of Perth-Andover.
"We've been having these types of situations and it keeps escalating, and it all goes back to drug trafficking," Perley said.
"We have a drug-trafficking issue in the community, and it's been entrenched amongst our young people, and the RCMP … aren't doing a good enough job cracking down on drug trafficking in our community, and these occurrences are a result of that."
The RCMP issued an Alert Ready message on Friday night in response to a shooting in the Medford area, about 10 kilometres north of Tobique First Nation, at around 7:20 p.m.
Stephen Perley Jr., the suspect who was the focus of the Alert Ready message, was arrested on Sunday and charged Monday with intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the safety of another person, and possession of a firearm while prohibited, the RCMP said in a news release Tuesday.
Another suspect, 21-year-old Mckenzie Moir of Bloomfield Ridge, was arrested on Saturday and charged Sunday with discharging a firearm with intent.
Meanwhile, another man and woman who were arrested in Fredericton as part of the investigation have been released.
Violence coincides with rise in illegal drugs, chief says
Perley said he's noticed an increase in illegal drugs in his community in the last six years, along with four shooting incidents in the past three years.
The band council has responded by banishing convicted drug dealers from living in the community. Perley said this has had only a limited effect because it's a band bylaw, which the RCMP won't enforce.
"[The RCMP] need to start busting these drug traffickers before it gets to our community, because when it gets to our community, it gets to our young people, and then their brain's not working properly and they start doing stupid things like firing off guns or breaking into elders' homes or stealing money and holding up businesses."
Cpl. Hans Ouellette with the RCMP said officers are still investigating the incident on Friday, and he couldn't say whether illegal drugs were a factor.
The men who were arrested have not been charged with drug offences.
Ouellette said the RCMP have been taking an active approach to dismantling drug trafficking in New Brunswick, including in the northwestern region, and invited anyone with concerns about it to contact the policing agency.
"When it does come to drugs in the communities, we do work actually quite closely with Indigenous communities to identify issues of local concern to the community, discuss solutions, and we also set local policing priorities with those communities as well," he said.
"We're also proactively engaged in disrupting and dismantling the trafficking of illegal drugs in our province, which is targeting those causing the most harm to our communities."
Ouellette said concerns about the RCMP not enforcing Tobique band council bylaws would have to be discussed by the band and the local detachment.
RCMP help wanted, despite tensions with police
Perley acknowledged tension between Indigenous communities and law enforcement has been high in the wake of the police killings of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi last spring.
Despite that, he said, his community wants the RCMP to work on addressing issues such as illegal drug dealing, as long as it's done properly.
"It's simple — just don't kill anybody," Perley said.
"If governments want police to be accountable, equip them with with the body cams. That keeps the police accountable. When they don't have that, you know, it's it's hard to know exactly what went on."