A northeastern Manitoba First Nation has declared a state of emergency, saying the community has seen a sharp rise in illegal drug use over the last six months.
God’s Lake First Nation says the community needs a boost in the resources to help those who are using drugs, including an on-reserve detox centre.
“The reason why we put up a state of emergency in the community is due to the … rising drug activity in the community, and also the crime has escalated — violent crimes have escalated due to drug activity,” said band Coun. Phillip Kanabee.
“A lot of our young people are getting drugs like meth and … cocaine, hard drugs, and I believe there is heroin now in the community.”
The community says many factors are contributing to its drug crisis, including inadequate housing and a lack of mental health and drug rehabilitation services.
In 2019, the community announced a state of emergency related to a suicide epidemic, which it said was caused by a methamphetamine crisis.
“We want some kind of a detox centre here in the community, where people can go … without going out of the community, because we don’t know what will happen if they are sent out in the city,” said Coun. Kanabee.
The state of emergency declaration also highlighted a lack of protective services in God’s Lake First Nation, a community about 550 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
While there is an RCMP detachment in the community, Kanabee says officers’ “hands are tied” when it comes to removing drug dealers from God’s Lake.
He says council suspects there are a few drug dealers in the community, whom they plan to remove by way of a band council resolution, which is when a First Nation’s chief and council vote to remove a person from the community.
The band council also wants to see a boost to the First Nations safety officer program, a federally funded program that trains safety officers, who have powers similar to peace officers.
Currently, God’s Lake First Nation has one safety officer, which band council says is not enough to monitor the entire community of 1,500 people.
God’s Lake First Nation is a dry community, but Coun. Mary Spence says drugs are easily coming through the airport.
“We need … those X-ray machines to search the persons that are coming in. They have that security system at the airport in Winnipeg,” she said. “We need to have more of that at the airlines.”