By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Chief Donald Sam and Council met on the morning of May 24 to discuss the illicit activities which have been occurring on the traditional lands of the ?akisq?nuk (Akisqnuk) First Nation, located adjacent to the Columbia River.
A letter was mailed out to all the households of the community on Friday, May 20 outlining these concerns and the steps being taken to address and resolve them. Alongside his council, and the presence of local RCMP Chief Donald Sam read the letter in a videorecording to his own and the broader community. The main message to all those offending, that effective immediately these illegal activities will no longer be tolerated.
It was intended by this letter and the video statement to address and communicate to the community the initial steps being taken to deal with the increase seen in violence, property crime, harbouring of individuals, and illegal drugs, alcohol and/or drug abuse.
“Chief and council are committed to changing this,” says Chief Donald Sam. “We recognize it’s affecting our households, and neighbouring households, and other communities.”
Chief and Council are looking to collaborate efforts and have already reached out to the Shuswap Band along with local RCMP and Family Dynamix to inform them of the letter that went out within the ?akisq?nuk First Nation community. The Chief and Council will be submitting a Victim Impact Statement to the Provincial and Federal Court System. If need be, the Victim Statement will be used by the Crown for sentencing any members of the ?akisq?nuk First Nation or any other that commits crimes that directly affect ?akisq?nuk First Nation and its members. Council has agreed to advocate for stiffer sentencing along with restorative justice planning.
The message is meant to be clear to all individuals breaking these laws and bringing this harm to the ?akisq?nuk First Nation; it won’t be tolerated, condoned, or supported. Drastic measures will be taken, if need be, against individuals who choose to continue down this path. This could include being banned from the ?akisq?nuk First Nation and lands known as the Columbia Lake Indian Reserve #3 for up to one year. This would result in these individuals being treated as trespassers during that time and charged under the Criminal Code enforced by the RCMP.
This is of course the worst-case scenario that no one wants to see. The support is there for all akisq?nuk First Nation members who want to seek treatment for any type of trauma, alcohol and/or drug abuse. akisq?nuk First Nation hosted a harm reduction work last Friday for all those that were interested in safer practices and naloxone training.
“In my opinion the crimes and the thefts we are seeing are a symptom of bigger concerns and issues. I feel looking more into our wellness strategy is where the answer lies,” says Sam. “I think the best way we can be a strong and cohesive community is through healing. Healing from our own traumas, that idea of intergenerational trauma. Trauma, after trauma and never having that chance to unbaggage yourself.”
The Chief and Council strive to govern with the best interests and safety in mind for all its members. To better heal the community ?akisq?nuk First Nation encourages all to report any illegal activity directly to the RCMP and reach out to the proper supports if you or a loved one are seeking help. “We are looking at creating bylaws that will also create that awareness of self,” says Sam.
“To be consistent with contemporary times and to empower both community members and elders. It is not punitive justice we want to promote, but restorative justice we are advocating for. We are opening our doors to collaborate and to make the community whole again.”
Chadd Cawson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of THE COLUMBIA VALLEY PIONEER . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI government funding.