FREDERICTON — A First Nations community in New Brunswick will soon be surrounded by security gates in an effort to curb illegal drug activity.
First installed during the COVID-19 pandemic and since removed, the gates will be put back and patrolled during certain hours, Chief Allan Polchies of Sitansisk, also known as St. Mary's First Nation, said Tuesday. Traffic in and out of the community will be monitored, he added, but residents aren't under lockdown or curfew.
The beefed-up security follows Polchies's decision on Monday to declare a state of emergency on the reserve.
"Non-Indigenous members are coming onto the reserve, cruising our streets late at night and being destructive, bringing in drugs," Sitansisk said in an interview. "We don't need those toxins in the community."
"Any questionable activity, or vehicles, or out-of-province licence plates will be tracked," he said.
Sitansisk's council said in its emergency declaration that the measure will unlock additional resources from provincial and federal programs.
"When people are using, they become destructive in the community, they become a nuisance," Polchies said. "We're trying to keep our people healthy and safe."
Sitansisk, located inside Fredericton city limits and home to about 2,000 people, needs mental-health support, wellness programs and more beds in addiction treatment centres, Polchies said.
In a written statement, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn said she and Premier Blaine Higgs are aware of the local state of emergency. Dunn said she, Public Safety Minister Kris Austin and Polchies met on Tuesday "to best understand the needs of the community, and we are ready to work with federal partners and Sitansisk to help address their concerns."
Polchies said his community is used as a "gateway" with people bringing in illicit drugs to sell.
In response to the state of emergency, Fredericton police have increased their presence on the reserve. Deputy chief Kim Quartermain says police arrested a person on Sunday for assault with a weapon, and another person on Monday for breaching the peace.
Over the weekend, a large crowd of approximately 300 people gathered on Fredericton's north side, prompting a significant police response. Polchies said that gathering involved people who had showed up to a suspected drug house to confront suspected narcotics traffickers.
"They're making a stand," he said. "The people have a voice. It's their community, they need to have a voice."
Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers refused an interview request.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 22, 2023.
— By Marlo Glass in Halifax.
The Canadian Press