The membership of K’atlodeeche First Nation has had enough of drug dealing on the Hay River Reserve.
And they asked the band council to take “all legal steps” to stop it during the First Nation’s annual general assembly, held from Aug. 8 to 12.
On the last day of the assembly, the issue of drug trafficking arose, and concern was expressed about one apparently well-known alleged drug trafficker.
“So if the community wants to make a stand and instruct us as a band council to make a stand, we should make a stand,” said Chief Roy Fabian.
The assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling on band council to take “…all legal steps necessary to stop drug dealing and drug dealers from operating on the Hay River Dene Reserve and that council report back to membership at the next general band meeting regarding the steps taken.”
The passing of the resolution was met with a round of applause from the two dozen band members at the assembly at the time.
A second resolution – also passed unanimously – was directed at both illegal drugs and alcohol, including bootlegging on the officially dry reserve. It called on band council to take the steps necessary to increase youth and social development programming on the reserve to address drug and alcohol abuse and other social issues.
It also directed council to review the KFN Youth Voices report, prepared by young people at a workshop during the assembly.
“There are some bad things going on in this community that are making our kids scared and making our kids sad,” said Fabian.
The young people are particularly concerned about the party houses on the reserve.
One teenage girl asked the assembly, “Can you fix and add some street lights, because it’s scary to walk at night.”
As part of the resolution calling for more youth and social development programming, council was directed to review the KFN Youth Voices document and organize a follow-up youth workshop to identify and plan solutions to the concerns raised by the young people.
Council was also asked to convene a general band meeting in October to deal specifically with social issues.
Some of the possible actions suggested at the assembly included expanding the role of the justice committee, providing full-time reserve security, expanding on-reserve counselling services, being more inclusive of girls and women in cultural activities and conducting a survey on social programming needs on the reserve.
The resolutions followed an afternoon of people sharing their own stories of how drugs and alcohol are negatively impacting the reserve.
“There are people – our own people – selling drugs to our kids,” said Fabian.
The chief also condemned bootleggers.
“We need to get bootleggers,” he said to the assembly. “We got bootleggers – our own people – selling booze to the kids. How do you think those kids are getting alcohol? They’re not going into a liquor store and buying alcohol. They can’t.”
April Martel said that the alcohol and drug problem is a matter of personal responsibility.
“The alcohol and drugs is the responsibility of the parents, the responsibility of the family member,” she said. “We always blame chief and council or we blame leadership but it’s our own responsibility to take actions and talk to our kids. Communicate with them.”
Martel believes drinking and drug use is going to be an ongoing issue in the community.
“It’s not going to stop,” she said. “And I’m honest about that. It’s true.”
Band Councillor Robert Lamalice was pleased everybody had a chance to say what they wanted to say about drugs and alcohol.
“It kind of hurts but I’m really proud of those who spoke up,” said Lamalice.
The truth sometimes hurts, he added. “For so long, we pretend. We pretend there’s nothing wrong.”