Cree nation in northern Manitoba declares state of emergency because of violence

“We are declaring a state of emergency following a string of deaths in our community,” says Chief

O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN) Chief Shirley Ducharme announced a state of emergency for her nation on Monday and is calling on both the federal and provincial governments for immediate assistance in resolving the issues that she says “have plagued the community.

“We are declaring a state of emergency following a string of deaths in our community. The root causes of our emergency come from centuries of colonial impacts resulting in addictions, reactions to trauma and mental health issues.

“We are requesting that the federal and provincial governments for immediate assistance with supports to address the immediate issue.”

The community, which has a population of 985, had a violent assault that led to a death of Noreen Tait, 47, on Feb. 19. She died in hospital two days later.

As APTN News previously reported, her family spoke out against recent homicides and domestic violence in the community.

“There have been an increase in incidents resulting in homicides and an alarming increase in domestic violence incidents,” said Arla Tait-Linklater at a news conference.

On March 1 the RCMP announced they are investigating the death of a woman who was being brought to a nursing station on a snowmobile, which become stuck. According to an RCMP press release it appears the  woman was outside for 12 hours.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is also speaking out in support of the community.

“I pray for justice and healing for the family of Noreen Tait,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “AMC stands with Chief Shirley Ducharme and O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation as they declare a state of emergency over the numerous deaths in their First Nation within a short period of time.”

The RCMP Manitoba police could not immediately be reached for comment about ongoing investigations or incidents in the area and their press releases did not provide further detail about the incidents at OPCN.

“We deployed our mobile crisis response team. They specialize in dealing with trauma issues and there are other responses being coordinated,” said Philip Paul-Martin, a spokesperson for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakinak (MKO), who provides communications for OPCN.

MKO is also asking the federal government for more assistance with housing and reducing ferry hours to limit the flow of alcohol into the community.

This is a developing story and APTN will provide further updates.


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