Nak’azdli Whut’en to take ‘strong stand’ against drug deal­ing

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Mark NIELSEN Cit­i­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

The Nak’azdli Whut’en chief and coun­cil have is­sued a warn­ing strongly-worded warn­ing against drug deal­ing while also reach­ing out to those who need help with their ad­dic­tions.

In a state­ment is­sued last week, they vowed to take a “strong stand against any il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity within the bound­aries of our com­mu­nity” and to de­ploy the full ex­tent of their power to clamp down on the prob­lem.

“Each of us has been af­fected by ad­dic­tion,” they said.

“We know some­one who is an ad­dict or know some­one who is sell­ing drugs to feed ad­dic­tion. We, the Nak’azdli Whut’en chief and coun­cil, have au­thor­ity within our com­mu­nity and we will as­sert our au­thor­ity to the high­est level to help pro­tect our mem­bers.”

Sell­ing or use of il­le­gal drugs will not be tol­er­ated, they con­tin­ued, “and we will take steps to bring this to a stop.”

In an in­ter­view, Chief Alexan­der McK­in­non coun­tered the tough talk by stress­ing that the band will be work­ing to pro­vide help to those mem­bers deal­ing with ad­dic­tions.

“We’re not look­ing to just out our peo­ple,” he said.

“We’re reach­ing out to mem­bers that are strug­gling to with this dis­ease and we want to sup­port them in liv­ing a health­ier life­style.”

In terms of us­ing their au­thor­ity, McK­in­non said they are “look­ing at all av­enues” in gen­eral and, in par­tic­u­lar, have sent let­ters to those liv­ing in band-owned rental units to have a dis­cus­sion with lead­er­ship about the is­sue.

Drug use has been a long-run­ning and ex­ten­sive is­sue for the band, McK­in­non said, much of it due to the lo­ca­tion of the Nak’azdli Whut’en’s main re­serve, which is ad­ja­cent to Fort St. James.

“Nak’azdli is ac­tu­ally a hub to sur­round­ing re­gions,” McK­in­non said.

“Our pop­u­la­tion here is about 700, that’s not in­clud­ing the Dis­trict of Fort St. James or their neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Binche, Tl’azt’en, Yekooche, Tachie, Pinchie – so in gen­eral, I would guess that there is prob­a­bly 10,000 peo­ple that come through here.”

As a con­se­quence, McK­in­non agreed that it would be fair to say the re­serve has be­come a party zone for many.

“One of our man­dates as the lead­er­ship for Nak’azdli is that we are to en­sure the safety of all our mem­bers,” McK­in­non said.

Fort St. James RCMP Sgt. Pat Jenk­ins said he has spo­ken to McK­in­non about the move and said the de­tach­ment will con­tinue to work with the band to ad­dress their con­cerns while also us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of en­force­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and collaborat­ion “to pro­vide a co­he­sive and ef­fec­tive re­sponse.”

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