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