Nova Scotia band wants to ban drug dealers from community

Trina Roache
APTN National News 
A long time band councillor and former chief wants to ban drug dealers from his Mi’kmaq community in Nova Scotia.

According to Alex McDonald, drug-related crimes in the Sipekne’Katik First Nation are getting worse and he wants action.

“As a band government we need to step up and do something about it and stop being afraid and showing fear,” said McDonald. “Because I’m not the only councillor that had a problem.”

At 2:00 am on March 2, McDonald woke up to his dog barking and his neighbor banging on his door. Someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail on his truck in the driveway. He panicked and ran
outside in his bare feet, throwing snow on the hood of his truck.

“I’m glad that we had neighbors that heard the bottle hit the vehicle and came and told us because it would’ve been worse,” said McDonald. “It could’ve set the houses on fire and people would’ve been
homeless including me and my family.”

McDonald has no doubts why he was targeted.

“It’s about drugs,” he said. “I’m against the drugs in the community. I like to see people clean up. It’s about, you know it’s about people trying to be a big king pin in our community.”

The incident with McDonald’s truck follows on the heels of a violent home invasion two weeks ago and stories of tires getting slashed. Though, most people aren’t willing to come forward.

“It has gotten worse,” said McDonald. “It’s just that people are quiet about it because they’re scared.”

Darren Sylvester is a Mi’kmaq Constable with the RCMP. He said he’s worked in Sipekne’Katik for over five years – and from a policing perspective, the drug problems haven’t gotten better or worse over
that time.

“I find when it seems like it’s a big concern when certain people are affected,” said Sylvester.

But he said he isn’t downplaying the drug problem. For the most part, the drugs of choice on reserve here are prescription pills, cocaine and marijuana. No signs of the lethal fentanyl yet.

McDonald has been critical of the RCMP.

“The police are not doing their job,” he said. “They’re not arresting anybody, they’re not doing raids on homes. They know who the dope pushers are.”

While stories about who’s pushing and who’s slashing tires as payback make the rounds in the community, Sylvester said police need more than that.

“The thing is, as police officers, we don’t just act on rumours and stuff that we hear on Facebook,” said Sylvester. “We need good information for us to actually do something about the drug problem in the

That can be challenging in a relatively small reserve where everyone knows each other.

“A lot of people are scared to speak up, they’re scared to be labelled as a rat,” said Sylvester. “And in smaller communities, word gets around and if they are labelled as a rat, things could happen to them
for speaking out.”

And that is exactly why Alex McDonald wants the band to take action by banning anyone charged with drug related offences from the reserve.

“It sucks that you have to kick people out of your community but sometimes it has to happen,” said McDonald. “Other communities have done it and they had good results.”

On Tuesday, chief and council had their regular meeting and talked at length about options for banning drug dealers from the reserve. No answers just yet.

Some people in Sipekne’Katik, not willing to talk on the record, told APTN that they weren’t sure a ban was the way to go and preferred a more positive emphasis on programs.

McDonald pointed out that there’s already programs and services offered through the health centre and the Native Alcohol and Drug Association.

“But when you have someone always pushing drugs in the community, who has other individuals drug dealing for him, it’s hard,” said McDonald. “It’s hard for anybody who has an addiction problem to get away from the drugs if it’s always in their face.”

“What is needed is for the community and the police to work together,” said Sylvester, driving through the reserve in his patrol car.

Sylvester doesn’t paint a negative picture of the community, though, or his role in it. “Indian Brook’s a great place to work a lot of great people here. It’s too bad there’s a drug problem.”

He said part of policing is making arrests. But an important aspect is working with the community and engaging with Mi’kmaq youth. He points to the on-reserve school as he drives.

“We’ll bring in the RCMP and we’ll play sports with the students just to get them familiar with who the police officers are and to have that trust with the police,” said Sylvester. “So they’re able to speak with them when they have to go somewhere for help.”

McDonald wants a solution that’s more immediate and feels banning drug dealers or anyone charged with a violent crime is the way to go.

“A lot of people are tired of the violence, tired of people preying on their family members, on their children, given their family drugs getting them addicted and then getting them to do the dirty work,” said McDonald.

He’s confident that the council will step up and ban drug dealers. But isn’t sure when it will happen, or what exactly the band council resolution might look like. The band is currently having its legal team look at what options might work best.

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Video Journalist

Trina Roache brings 18 years of journalistic experience to APTN Investigates. A member of the Glooscap First Nation in unceded Mi’kmaw territory, Trina has covered Indigenous issues from politics to land protection, treaty rights and more. In 2014, Trina won the Journalists for Human Rights/CAJ award for her series on Jordan’s Principle. She was nominated again in 2017 for a series on healthcare issues in the remote Labrador community of Black Tickle. Trina’s favorite placed is behind the camera, and is honoured when the people living the story, trust her to tell it.

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