First Nations chiefs and Metis leaders from the north say the provincial and federal governments need to allocate funds to their communities to deal with escalating crime and social problems.
“In the case of Chief Burns’s (James Smith Cree Nation) community, horrific things happened and the government came to their aid, which is good but we need the government to come to the aid of all the communities,” said Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) Vice Chief Richard Derocher.
He spoke at a joint press conference in Prince Albert on November 4 with leaders from Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC), Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) and the Métis Nation – Saskatchewan (MN-S).
Derocher says they “are one event away from having it happen in any of our communities” and says MLTC has had four community lockdowns in the last 30 days.
He says some elders are sleeping with guns and baseball bats beside their beds.
Indigenous leaders at the meeting say crime in northern communities has reached emergency levels.
“And I’m going to blame the drugs that cause this to happen in our communities. Long-term needs: detox centres, treatment centres, wellness centres,” said Derocher.
In the throne speech, the province announced a new Saskatchewan Marshal’s Service (SMS) with 70 officers to police rural areas and support the RCMP. The province is also expanding the Crime Reduction Team (CRT) and Warrant Enforcement and Suppression Team (WEST).
The SMS is expected to be operational by mid-to-late 2026, at an annual cost of approximately $20 million.
Indigenous leaders say they were left out of the discussion on safety and aren’t sure how the SMS will operate in areas with Indigenous communities.
“So many times we aren’t taken into consideration,” said Métis Nation – Saskatchewan (MN-S) President Glen McCallum.
He says the current government systems have failed Métis and Indigenous people and over generations have contributed to the problems in his home community of Pine House. He says each Indigenous community faces its own unique challenges.
“Let’s work together and formalize plans to address the issues that are going on in our communities,” he said.
Buffalo River Dene Nation Chief Norma Catarat says there were two assaults on elders prompting the band to issue two states of emergency.
The community is about 540 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
She attributes the crime to gangs and drugs and says now many people are living in fear. And says the sporadic distribution of resources has left it up to the band to fund solutions.
“Stop making policies in Ottawa or Regina and thinking it’s going to work in my community because Buffalo River has different values, different culture and different traditions,” said Catarat.
She’s asking that the federal or provincial government help the band pay for home security cameras and subsidized wifi for elders. The band has also hired private security to patrol the community. Cataract says the government should reimburse the band for the cost of the security guards.
Chief of Peter Ballantyne Cree Karen Bird says in the last twelve months the band has incurred $1 million dollars in funeral expenses.
She says PBCN has around 12,000 people and 905 houses.
Chiefs from the north say inadequate housing, and high food and gas prices contribute to the problems people there face as well as poor cell service outside of the core communities.
“This is an emergency that we have to address…we have seen what has happened in James Smith,” said Bird.
Prince Albert Grand Council Grand (PAGC) Chief Brian Hardlotte says PAGC is working to develop a tribal police force to operate in its communities. He says Indigenous police officers could be operating in two years’ time.
“Indigenous policing should be made into legislation as an essential service and that’s something that’s not there,” he said.
Hardlotte says he’s looking forward to working with all levels of government to honour the commitments to tribal policing outlined in a letter of intent signed in October with the federal and provincial governments.