Bigstone declares state of emergency

‘Violence, mental health and addictions’

Leader staff

Things are bad enough in the Bigstone Cree Nation for the chief to have declared a state of local emergency (SOLE) on Jan. 8.

Chief Andy Alook appeared in a video, reading from a prepared statement. He didn’t go into much detail about what sort of emergency Bigstone was facing; mainly that it had to do with mental health and addictions, and that “external support” is needed.

A written version of Alook’s statement, with more detail, is on the Bigstone website. It says:

“Bigstone Cree Nation urgently calls upon the federal Ministries of Public Safety, Indigenous Services Canada-First Nations Inuit Health Branch, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, and the Justice and Attorney General of Canada to provide infrastructure, capacity and mental health resources to deal with the crisis our communities are facing.

“The communities of Wabasca and Calling Lake are being threatened with a rise in serious and violent crimes – arsons, assaults, break and enters, gangs, and increased illegal drug use and mental health crisis.”

“Drug abuse is a major cause of social concerns and issues in Bigstone Cree Nation (BCN) communities and Indigenous youth and members are dying from an increased supply of highly addictive illegal drugs, opioids and stimulants, such as methamphetamine.”

Alook calls for “all levels of government to help Bigstone Cree Nation.”

Better policing would help. Alook mentions a new agreement with the Wabasca RCMP that is intended to enhance RCMP coverage for most, but not all reserve communities. The one left out is Calling Lake (Jean Baptiste Gambler Reserve #183), which is covered by Athabasca RCMP.

The crime situation in Calling Lake has been dire enough for the M.D. of Opportunity to have a SOLE in place in that community for the past two or three months.

Alook acknowledges the policing challenges, saying RCMP have large areas to patrol, but “jurisdictional issues should not impact community safety.”

Bigstone Cree Nation is facing many challenges, Alook’s written statement concludes, “and immediate support is needed from all levels of government; local, provincial, and federal.”

Chief Andy Alook

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