For immediate release
January 30, 2022
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement in support of the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation in Northern Manitoba. Sayisi Dene is the most Northern First Nation community in Manitoba.
Grand Chief Garrison Settee states:
“On behalf of MKO, I send my condolences to the people in the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation on the tragic loss of a community member this weekend. A situation unfolded that is very concerning and which must be addressed using a ‘whole of government’ approach.
MKO is aware of a raging epidemic in bootlegging and drug-dealing in Northern First Nations. This has been an ongoing concern for years. There must be a committed, focused, multi-jurisdictional engagement of policing, health, harm reduction, social services, and child and family services to address the harm caused and victims created by the virtually unrestrained activities of bootleggers and drug dealers and the adverse effects and too-often tragic outcomes of alcohol and drug use, abuse, and addictions.
My office has reached out to senior officials at Manitoba Justice regarding concerns with the role Canada Post plays in delivering alcohol and drugs into Tadoule Lake without the ability of a First Nation Safety Officer to inspect mail, parcels, and packages or for the mail to be searched prior to shipment on Perimeter Airlines. We have also raised concerns about the RCMP’s conduct with the First Nation.
The consumption of drugs by an individual in the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation in recent days is believed to have set off a series of tragic events, which ended in the death of a young person. It is thought Canada Post delivered the drugs into the community. I have repeatedly raised with the Manitoba Justice Minister, Premier of Manitoba, and senior officials the urgent need to make arrangements to inspect mail, parcels, and packages for alcohol and drugs being delivered into MKO First Nations by Canada Post.
MKO has also previously requested, on several occasions, that Manitoba Justice work with MKO to establish a mechanism for inspecting shipments coming into provincially-operated airports. Manitoba Infrastructure has advised MKO First Nations in writing that First Nation Safety Officers may not carry out searches of passengers or cargo at airports.
The Sayisi Dene First Nation, RCMP, and Public Prosecution Service of Canada have entered into a by-law enforcement and prosecution Protocol agreement, to which the Sayisi Dene First Nation has expressly attached its valid Intoxicants Prohibition By-law enacted under section 85.1 of the Indian Act. A section 85.1 By-law has the force and effect of a federal regulation.
Clearly, Canada Post is serving a role in enabling any and every person to violate the law by simply picking up a parcel or package containing alcohol and to commit the offence of simple possession, which is punishable under the section 85.1 By-law by summary conviction or by a restorative justice process. As to the application of the COVID-19 Protocol to shipments of alcohol and drugs through Canada Post, the ‘risky behaviours’ associated with bootlegging and drug dealing and with alcohol and drug use and abuse are well-established as being significant contributing factors to outbreaks of COVID-19.
On September 10, 2021, I met with then-Premier Kevin Goertzen, during which time I presented him with recommendations, including one that the province make arrangements for the RCMP and First Nation Safety Officers to search incoming airport traffic and air cargo shipments to help stem the raging epidemic in bootlegging and drug-dealing in MKO First Nations, particularly those without a full-time RCMP detachment.
There is 40 per cent violent crime rate in remote Manitoba First Nations without a full-time RCMP detachment and which are served by periodic inland patrols. It is well-established that violent crime is strongly associated with alcohol and drug use, abuse, and addictions.
Today I am renewing an urgent call for a ‘whole of government response’ to stem the raging epidemic in bootlegging and drug-dealing in MKO First Nations and to focus on the health and well-being of Northern First Nations by delivering harm reduction measures and mental wellness and addictions supports.”
For more information:
Melanie Ferris, MKO Communications
Email: [email protected]