The Buffalo River Dene Nation is continuing to work to improve community safety.

Earlier this month leadership from the First Nation along with representatives from the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) traveled to Regina where they met with officials from a number of ministries. Buffalo River Dene Nation Chief Norma Catarat told MBC Radio News her nation’s delegation included a range of people who made presentations.

“We took some Elders and we took a youth with us, (to) make a presentation to the ministers regarding our safety concerns in the community,” she said.

Catarat said representatives from a number of ministries were at the meeting including people from social services, justice, corrections and policing along with government relations. Athabasca MLA Jim Lemaigre was also present. The First Nation remains under a state of emergency which was re-issued last fall.

(Buffalo River Dene Nation Chief Norma Catarat sitting between Meadow Lake Tribal Council Vice Chief Richard Durocher and Prince Albert Grand Council Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte at a media conference in Prince Albert. Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)

The Buffalo River Dene Nation chief explained security is a major source of concern for people living on the First Nation. While they do have RCMP officers stationed in the community, Catarat said the officers often have to travel to Buffalo Narrows to perform other duties which at times leaves Buffalo River without officers available. The First Nation does have a private security service which they have contracted, however they do not have any enforcement powers. Catarat said one of the asks they are making of the province involves Community Safety Officers.

“We have four retired RCMP members within that (security) agency that work in the community, we asked if it were possible to grandfather them into the CSO program,” she said.

Community Safety Officers can be employed by First Nations or municipal governments in Saskatchewan and are empowered to enforce some provincial laws along with local bylaws. Catarat said enforcement of the nation’s bylaws is not something which is currently top of mind for police.

“Our bylaw enforcements aren’t really being done, because there’s so much other higher, I guess more urgent matters that the RCMP have to deal with,” she said.

Along with more increased community security, Catarat said the delegation also spoke with provincial officials about the need for more addictions treatment and support. Catarat said they were told the province is in the process of crafting a strategy in regards to treatment centres. She added the issues the nation is currently facing are a result of the historic treatment of Indigenous peoples.

“We all know what the cause is of all of this going on and it’s historic trauma all of our people have to go through, and the loss of the culture, tradition and language,” she said.

The Buffalo River Dene Nation chief said they are planning to meet with representatives from the provincial government again and are also hoping to have provincial officials come visit the community. Catarat said she is hopeful about what can potentially be accomplished working with the province.

“I am very optimistic because this has never been done before to open a dialogue directly with government and this is the first of many meetings to come, this is for all of Saskatchewan, for safety,” she said.