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Northern municipal leaders get personal as they seek solutions to drug-related crime PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chelsea Laskowski   
Thursday, 22 June 2017 17:30

Ile-a-la-Crosse Mayor Duane Favel. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

At the New North annual Mayor and Councillor meeting in Prince Albert on Thursday, a number of municipal leaders delivered passionate speeches on drug-involved crime and addiction in their communities.

"We've got the users and we've got the dealers, and they're all community members. They are all family. We're all family, sitting around here," said La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre, as he said he wanted harsher penalties for drug dealers.

His comments were made in response to a motion by Ile-a-la-Crosse for New North to lobby the feds and province to help combat crime by giving local governments “more powers to deal with drug dealers, such as banishment of individuals convicted” of drug trafficking. Mayor Duane Favel acknowledged the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to banish people from municipalities, and later said he used that extreme example to stimulate meaningful dialogue.

The motion was passed, but the idea of banishment was struck down by numerous leaders like Buffalo Narrows Mayor Bobby Woods who said banishment just passes “off our problem off to another community.”

St Pierre said treatment is a necessity for users and that "banishment doesn't cut it. We need to heal. If we want to move forward we need to heal. We start with our young ones. We teach them, we educate them, we move forward,” he said, adding that “if there's no users there'll be no drug dealers."

While St. Pierre said more people need to speak up to RCMP about drug dealing, Sandy Bay Mayor Paul Morin said reporting crime is not easy when - as it often is in the close-knit communities - the offender is a family member.

Sandy Bay Mayor Paul Morin. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

“There’s internal consequences that follow that,” he said, giving a hypothetical situation where he reported someone.

“Now, I’m dealing with animosity and hatred from my own extended family members for what I did, doing the right thing.”

He said to deal with that conflict, he draws from the history of his community and a childhood that was “simplistic, living off the land and with the land.”

The community lost its way of providing for its own and of following the teachings of the Elders, Morin said, his voice was thick with emotion as he stood to deliver the best-received comments on the motion.

“At the end of the day, ladies and gentlemen, the onus of what goes on in our community is the responsibility of us that live in it, and we are a living product of that,” he said.

Favel said all communities clearly understand they need a well-rounded approach to addiction which draws from law enforcement, preventative education, and treatment “and right now that’s non-existent in our northern communities.”

He said in his decade or so with New North he’s heard the same conversation on addiction and crime many times over, and his motion is intended to bring about action and more “frank” discussions with higher levels of government.

Also on Thursday, New North's membership passed two resolutions: to lobby the province on increasing solar power use and other renewable energies in the north, and reducing the obstacles to producing more renewable power; and to lobby the government to introduce a northern alcohol tax.

Green Lake's mayor pointed out that milk costs more in the north than the south, but liquor is the same across the board.

In the afternoon, the hundred or so people there also held an informational meeting on gangs.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 June 2017 15:27
Prince Albert National Park will re-open nature centre PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dean Bear   
Thursday, 22 June 2017 13:20

Photo courtesy of Shannon Bond, Parks Canada

The Prince Albert National Park will officially re-open the park’s nature centre this weekend after three years of extensive renovations.

The centre will include new and interactive exhibits that explore the park's unique natural and cultural heritage.

An advisory group representing 14 First Nations and Métis communities, and agencies with strong connections to Prince Albert National Park, helped provide insight and feedback on the Nature Centre exhibits.

Robyn Huffnagle works with Parks Canada at the Prince Albert National Park as a product development officer, and says having input from Indigenous groups was key in the renovations.

"Inclusion of Indigenous groups in the nature centre really reflects what has existed here long before this became a national park," she said. "It incorporates the perspective of the ancestors of the people who were here eight thousand years ago."

Indigenous people have lived in and cared for the land now called Prince Albert National Park, and Huffnagle says it remains committed to the involvement of local Indigenous communities in all aspects of the park.

Some of the interactive displays will include displays of bison and moose that were abundant in the 1800’s. Visitors will have a chance to see how the different parts of the animals were used by Aboriginal and Metis people in their everyday lives.

Huffnagle says that since 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday and national parks across the country have free admission, the Prince Albert National Park is seeing an increase in visitors this year.

She says with the centre now open, she hopes that it will become a jumping-off point for visitors to see what the park has to offer when it comes to nature walks, backcountry hiking and the history behind the park.

The celebrations take place this Saturday starting at 10 a.m. at the Nature Centre in Waskesiu.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 June 2017 13:26
UPDATED - NDP says province not trying hard enough to close funding gap for First Nations students PDF Print E-mail
Written by Manfred Joehnck   
Thursday, 22 June 2017 12:45

Carla Beck. Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck.

The provincial NDP is calling on the premier to put more pressure on the federal government to end the funding gap for students in First Nations schools.

They are funded at a rate about 40 per cent less than the provincial average.

NDP Education Critic, Carla Beck, says while it is the federal government’s responsibility, the province has a role to play.

"It is indefensible that we allow this to continue," she said. "We really want to highlight this today -- that we need to make a stand to ensure this funding gap is rectified."

Beck says the province should make up the difference in funding, then bill the federal government. According to the FSIN, it would amount to about $80 million a year.

A year ago, the provincial government and the NDP sent a joint letter to the prime minister, asking that the funding gap be ended immediately. Beck says since then, the situation has gotten worse for First Nations children.

"The human cost to our kids should be reason enough to do the right thing, but the fact is, these cuts and this dramatic under-funding are also hurting the economy and blocking important economic opportunities," said Beck. "Every child in Saskatchewan deserves an equal opportunity to succeed."

In a statement provided to MBC News, Education Minister Don Morgan says: "The Government of Saskatchewan cannot step into this area of federal jurisdiction. Funding for K-12 education on-reserve is, and remains, a federal responsibility. We continue to actively encourage the federal government to fulfill its prior commitment to eliminate the funding gap for children attending First Nations schools."

Morgan goes on to say: "While we wholeheartedly agree with the members of the Opposition that the federal government needs to eliminate the funding gap, we find it irresponsible of the NDP to call for our government to provide the funding now and simply bill the federal government later - particularly since the NDP has not been able to provide a cost estimate for what they expect it would cost the people of Saskatchewan (our own estimate is that this would cost at least $67.7 million annually)."

Morgan adds his government remains strongly committed to improving First Nations and Metis graduation rates in this province, noting First Nations and Metis graduation rates have risen more than 10 per cent in the past decade.


Last Updated on Friday, 23 June 2017 07:27
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