Quick community action in concert with Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) presence helped diffuse a volatile situation on the Red Earth Cree Nation reserve in Saskatchewan earlier this week, and on October 6 Chief Ian McKay said tragedy had been averted.
“We are thankful the RCMP waited as we deployed our own support systems to assist the efforts for a peaceful resolution without further incident,” McKay said in a statement. “The incident is a symptom of a much larger problem. Our community struggles with real socio-economic issues similar to other communities such as high unemployment rates, health issues, poor housing conditions and limited opportunities for our youth.”
The incident began early Tuesday, according to The Star Phoenix, when the RCMP responded to a gunfire report on the reserve. As they drove toward a group they encountered, shots were fired at their cruiser. They returned fire, withdrew to wait for reinforcements and then went to the home that they believed the suspects had fled to, the newspaper said. A “lengthy standoff” ensued, the paper said, but it ended peacefully after the Red Earth Cree vice chief, band councilors and an elder helped diffuse the tension.
Afterward, 19-year-old Davis Demery was charged with attempted murder by firearm, intent to endanger a life by discharging a firearm, possession of a prohibited firearm and three breaches of probation, The Star Phoenix said. Three others were arrested, though not charged, and then released.
The shootings came on the heels of an incident in La Loche, Saskatchewan, in which RCMP were forced to barricade themselves in a hospital as an angry mob torched a police truck and damaged an ambulance after two officers tried to pull over two ATVs. One of the drivers rolled his ATV into a ditch and was injured. About 70 people emerged from a home nearby and confronted the officers, CTV reported.
Deano LaPrise, 22, Fabian LaPrise, 27, and Randall LaPrise, 25, were each charged with assaulting a peace officer with a weapon, arson, mischief, obstruction, and participating in a riot, Postmedia News reported.
Saskatchewan’s top RCMP official called the incidents isolated and said they were not indicative of the overall relationship between aboriginals and police.
“In terms of these two events particularly, I just want to say unequivocally that these are not an indicator of an escalation of violence, if you will, against our members here in Saskatchewan,” assistant commissioner Russ Mirasty said at a news conference on Thursday October 6, according to the Canadian Press.
McKay agreed but said it epitomized problems of a much larger scope. He said he and the council will hold a community membership meeting including the RCMP, the federal government, the council of Prince Albert and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) to address the issues.
“It would be irresponsible for the Chief and Council to dismiss the incident and pretend everything is alright but our community needs support, from within and through our affiliates and the governments,” McKay said. “Our young people need support to come to terms with what happened. All people need to feel safe.”