Ottawa may call Rangers to aid Eabametoong
The federal government is considering calling in a reserve military unit with a large Aboriginal component as one of several options to help a beleaguered northern Ontario Ojibway reserve whose chief recently issued a national plea for help over escalating drug-fuelled violence.
APTN National News
OTTAWA–The federal government is considering calling in a reserve military unit with a large Aboriginal component as one of several options to aid a beleaguered northern Ontario Ojibway reserve whose chief recently issued a national plea for help over escalating drug-fuelled violence.
Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan said federal officials are considering a number of options including sending the Canadian Rangers to Eabametoong First Nation. The Rangers are a sub-component of the Canadian Forces Reserve which operates in northern and remote areas of the country.
“We could, for example, ask for the Canadian Rangers to go in and they are a very good group with a lot of credibility in those remote communities,” said Duncan, in an interview Tuesday with APTN National News. “I think our officials are considering anything that makes sense at this point and I would certainly support that.”
Duncan also said Ottawa could ask the province to help out with the Ontario Provincial Police.
Indian Affairs, Health Canada and Human Resources officials were scheduled to fly into Eabametoong First Nation Tuesday, but weather caused them to postpone their flight, said Duncan.
The officials will keep trying to reach the community and begin an on-the-ground assessment.
The band council for the fly-in community, which sits about 300 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont., issued a state of emergency Friday after deciding their community was spiralling out of control. The reserve has been hit by almost 50 arsons this year and two murders.
Residents say that prescription drug abuse has gripped a large segment of the adult population while many children and youth have been left to fend for themselves.
Some residents are now sleeping with fire extinguishers next to their beds over fears their house could be hit in a night-time arson attack. The home of the local Anglican reverend was hit by a Molotov cocktail in recent weeks.
“I am quite concerned,” said Duncan. “The chief expressed some relief because he has his hands full…he is working with us and we are doing everything we can.”
Band Chief Lewis Nate issued a national plea for help on Friday saying that the situation in his community “has escalated out of control.”
The Canadian Rangers are usually described as the military’s eyes and ears in Northern Canada, but they have been called into help in times of domestic crisis. The Rangers were involved in providing aid during the 2005 Kashechewan drinking water crisis and the 1999 avalanche in Kangiqsualujjuaq in northern Quebec which killed nine people.
The Rangers have a large component of Inuit, First Nation and Metis members. There are about 4,250 Rangers in 169 communities across Canada and 23 languages are spoken in their ranks.
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