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A group of RCMP officers, each wrapped in a colorful blanket, stand together with an Indigenous person.

First Nations leaders honour local officers for making community safer

First Nations leaders honoured RCMP officers at Saskatchewan's Spiritwood detachment earlier this year for their work seizing drugs and weapons in the community. Credit: Agency Chiefs Tribal Council


First Nations leaders in Saskatchewan did something a little unexpected this year after RCMP officers seized guns, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and cash, and made several arrests in the community.

They thanked the Spiritwood detachment's officers with a public celebration and gifts including a Starblanket — a patterned Indigenous blanket that represents a new beginning or a journey towards truth.

"We have to honour our partners. The RCMP has been part of our lives since the treaties were signed," says Witchekan Lake First Nation Chief Annie Thomas. "We need to uphold that respect, but it's got to work both ways."

Like many communities across Canada, Witchekan Lake has a problem with drugs — particularly meth — and gang violence.

"Unfortunately, meth is the drug of choice in our area and it causes huge problems," says Detachment Commander Sgt. Sebastian Andrews. "The high from the drug can last for days and those on it lose any sense of impulse control and commit any number of crimes to support their habit."

Chief Thomas adds that the 800 people in the community, located 200 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, need to be protected from the physical harms that come from using drugs and the violence associated with the drug trade.

Making the community safer

In early March, Cst. Brad Smailes was on patrol with a partner when they heard a report of a stolen vehicle over their police radio. Smailes, who has lived in the community for more than a decade, says he saw an unfamiliar truck at a house he knew well. After taking a few minutes to observe the situation, watching people come and go from the vehicle, he and his partner decided to investigate further.

"When we got close, the driver's door was open and we could see weapons," says Smailes. In subsequent searches, they found more guns and drugs, and determined that some of the individuals had weapons prohibitions orders against them and were not lawfully allowed to be in possession of firearms.

Spiritwood RCMP officers subsequently arrested four men, laid more than 60 charges, and seized seven firearms, three prohibited weapons, more than 32 grams of crack cocaine, and 23 grams of methamphetamine. Chief Thomas says the seizure, including the confiscation of the guns, makes the community safer.

Showing appreciation

In recognition of the RCMP's work, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations organized the March 29 ceremony.

Chief Thomas says the community is grateful for the arrests.

"I'm very proud of my community and what it's become — we hold lots of Ceremonies, Feasts and Sundances," she says. "Those promote the values we can live right by and we have to keep building and face our challenges and problems."

Smailes says he was honoured to be part of the ceremony. "Obviously police don't do the job for moments like that, but listening to the Chiefs speak about their communities and the importance of working together . . . it was humbling," he says.

Andrews says he'd never seen so much support from the community. "To me it showed everyone standing united, the community, RCMP and Chiefs, showing that we'll continue to work together to stop these drug dealers," he says.

The other members of the detachment honoured include Cpl. Donovan Kajner, Cpl. Sol Puentespina, Cst. Diandra Collister, Cst. Jeremy St. Germaine, and Cst. Jerith Archibald.

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