Stop Hobbema violence, mother of wounded tot pleads
The mother of a little girl wounded in a drive-by shooting at the Samson First Nation is pleading with band leaders and police to do more to stop the violence plaguing her reserve.
"Stop it!" was Candace Saddleback's tearful message during a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside an Edmonton hospital where her daughter Asia is recovering from critical injuries.
"I've been living there all my life and I'm so sorry that it took my daughter … for people to understand that its a bad crisis in Hobbema."
The stray bullet that wounded Asia Saddleback, 23 months, tore through the wall of her house, hitting her in the liver and spine as she ate Sunday dinner with her family.
Her mother said the girl is now out of intensive care and expected to make a full recovery.
Christopher Crane, 18, and a 15-year-old youth who cannot be named have been charged with aggravated assault and firearms-related offences.
The youth was in court Wednesday afternoon, and was denied bail. Crane appeared briefly in court on Tuesday before being remanded in custody.
Band members discuss solutions
Band members on the Samson reserve — a community of 12,000 about 50 kilometres south of Edmonton — met behind closed doors at the local bingo hall most of the day to discuss the rash of violence that has included about a dozen gun-related incidents in the past three weeks .
Band councillor Claude Saddleback, a distant relative of the wounded girl, said the band was asking for volunteers for a task force to look at ways of dealing with social problems on the reserve that have led people to join gangs.
That includes looking at everything from ways to create more employment to additional recreation to keep youths off the streets.
"We have to have a starting point and I believe that is what we are doing today," Saddleback said. "I don't think there has been really any serious effort to address this issue."
Chief Marvin Yellowbird has said all band council business that is not urgent will be put on hold while the community deals with the problem of gang violence.
Yellowbird also appealed for additional resources from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the RCMP, to deal with the crisis.
Rival gangs are battling each other for control of the drug trade in the community —primarily crack cocaine — and that leads to a cycle of attacks and retaliation, RCMP Cpl. Darrel Bruno said.
He said the 13 gangs on the reserve include members who are as young as 12.
With files from James Hees and Gareth Hampshire