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RCMP make booze busts after Manitoba Indigenous leader calls for action on alcohol trafficking in First Nations communities

February 11, 2023  By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Feb. 11, 2023, Winnipeg, Man. – Manitoba RCMP announced two arrests this week related to alcohol trafficking in First Nations communities, and the arrests come just one week after one Indigenous leader accused RCMP of not doing enough to crack down on illegal alcohol sales in First Nations.

In a media release Wednesday, RCMP confirmed a woman from the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) was arrested in late January after RCMP executed a search warrant at a home in the community and found an “undisclosed quantity of liquor, numerous empty water bottles used to sell the product, a safe, a quantity of dried cannabis, and trafficking related paraphernalia.”

A 51-year-old NCN woman is now awaiting charges under the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act (LGCA).

In a Feb. 3 incident, RCMP received a report of a single vehicle crash with possible injuries on Highway 6, located about six kilometres south of Ponton, Man., about 545 kilometres north of Winnipeg. RCMP said there were no major injuries as a result of the crash, but when officers were assisting the occupants they found several bottles of liquor, and said there had been visible attempts to conceal them.

Officers were told that those in the car were heading to God’s Lake Narrows, where the possession and sale of liquor is prohibited. “A further search of the vehicle led to the seizure of an additional large quantity of liquor,” RCMP said.

A 30-year-old female from God’s Lake Narrows has now been charged under the LGCA, and fined $2,542.

News of the arrests came just days after the Chief of one Manitoba First Nation community, where both the possession and sale of alcohol has been banned since 1985, said that Manitoba RCMP have not been doing enough to combat illegal alcohol sales in his community, and questioned if RCMP in this province were doing enough to crack down on alcohol trafficking in other First Nations communities.

“Our council along with the Chief passed a by-law in July of 1985 that has been declared legal and law within the boundaries of our First Nation community, but it hasn’t been enforced by the RCMP,” Pimicikamak Cree Nation (PCN) Chief David Monias said in a Feb. 6 media release.

“A lot of our social problems stem from alcohol and drugs and we gave the RCMP the tools to assist us, but so far there has been no enforcement,” he said. “How long are we supposed to wait? Band by-laws are a law of Canada and fall under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Canada,” he added. “The Cross Lake Band of Indians/Pimicikimak Cree Nation are demanding that the RCMP enforce the intoxicants prohibition by-law.”

On Friday, the Winnipeg Sun reached out to RCMP for additional comment and a response to the comments from Monias on the alleged lack of enforcement of PCN liquor laws.

“The Manitoba RCMP recognizes that the illegal importation, selling, and distribution of alcohol and the detrimental effect it has on the community of Pimicikamak Cree Nation is a serious concern,” an RCMP spokesperson said in an email Friday.

“The Manitoba RCMP is speaking regularly with the Chief and Council of Pimicikamak Cree Nation on this issue and remains committed to working closely with the community to find solutions to reduce the victimization and crime associated to the illicit use of intoxicants.”

But RCMP said that enforcement can’t be the only tool to fight addictions and the illegal sale of drugs and alcohol in First Nations communities.

“The RCMP has an important role, but enforcement alone cannot resolve the issue of addiction and the misuse of intoxicants,” the spokesperson said.

“Consumption of illicit drugs and alcohol is a much larger societal issue that must be addressed by all levels of government and key partners in health, education, addictions and justice.”

– Winnipeg Sun

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