APTN National News
A Mi’kmaq warrior in New Brunswick is hopeful that a band council resolution (BCR) to ban drug dealers will help keep his community safe.
“I know the drug dealers are scared now that this BCR is in the mix,” said John Levi, from Elsipogtog. “I want to give a thumbs up to the chief and council that took the stand and leadership role and go ahead and fight the drugs.”
Last week, two First Nations in the province responded quickly to news of a suspected fentanyl-related death in Esgenoopetitj, also known as Burnt Church. The Maliseet community of Tobique unanimously passed a resolution to ban convicted drug dealers from its reserve.
And in Elsipogtog, the chief and council dusted off a policy it had passed several years ago and issued a community notice to warn “those who choose to distribute this poison and exploit our people. The Chief and Council are fully prepared to invoke extreme measures by expelling and banning” drug traffickers.
“We need more community members to help and support this drug war,” said Levi. “We don’t want anything to happen to our community like what happened in Burnt Church.”
In Esgenoopetitj, Ann Marie Lambert died after an apparent overdose and three others were sent to hospital. Community leaders have tied Lambert’s death to pills laced with fentanyl. RCMP are investigating but won’t confirm any details.
Whether or not fentanyl is responsible for Lambert’s death, it has spurred action in communities already struggling with drug problems.
“It’s basically a no-brainer. We’re trying to save lives,” said Tobique Chief Ross Perley. “We’re trying to avoid young people from abusing drugs and poisoning their minds and bodies. And potentially avoid a death in the community.”
Perley said the council is working closely with RCMP, who has several known drug dealers in the community under investigation.
“Our hope is that we never have to use this resolution,” said Perley. “Our hope is the drug dealers and traffickers will not risk losing the services of the community and stop poisoning their people and stop trafficking drugs.”
Perley said the resolution acts as a deterrent. He expects a challenge if the band does have to enforce the drug ban, but is confident the band would win.
“We have control of our programs of our programs and services here in the community. We have to stick to our policy,” said Perley. “If we get challenged and have to go to court then we are up for the challenge.”
Levi is glad to see action.
Last year, Levi had taken it upon himself to police drug dealers in Elsipogtog. He had set up a roadblock checking cars driving in and out of the community.
“The first step is for somebody in the community to take the first step to fight the drug dealers,” said Levi. “I already took that step, now the chief and council is taking the second step. We are slowly moving forward. Hopefully we will beat it and have our community clean again.”
Now with the fentanyl scare, Levi has asked community members to send him any information on who is dealing drugs.
“It’s pretty hard for me to go to somebody’s house and take it upon myself, but I’ve approached a few drug dealers just to let them know we know they’re selling, that we’re watching and the RCMP is watching, just to give them a warning, a heads up that we know what’s going on,” said Levi. “Of course, they deny and I just let them know, ‘I know who you are and I wish you’d stop selling.’”
Levi said the help is there if people want to stop using drugs. Elsipogtog has programs to help people overcome addictions. But he said banishment could help keep the drugs out in the first place.