N.B. First Nation wants criminal checks for newcomers
The Elsipogtog First Nation wants to crack down on crime in the eastern New Brunswick community by running background criminal checks on non-aboriginal people looking to move onto the reserve.
The unusual step is being considered as the First Nations community struggles to bring down its crime rate, which is 10 times higher than in neighbouring communities.
But the band council and federal government must approve the program before the RCMP can implement it, Sgt. Claude Tremblay said.
Under the program, the local RCMP detachment would be the first stop for any non-First Nations person wishing to become a resident or long-term visitor on the reserve of about 2,800 near Richibucto, Elsipogtog Chief Jesse Simon said.
Simon said these individuals would be fingerprinted and subjected to criminal background checks.
The RCMP, however, said it won't be doing any fingerprinting. "Not at this point, no," Tremblay said.
"We don't need the fingerprints. … If [the individual] was fingerprinted in the past, or has committed a crime, it is already in the system."
The RCMP have access to the databases of all police forces across Canada, Tremblay said.
The criminal background checks done for the reserve would be similar to those required for certain job applicants, Tremblay said.
Simon said that if a check turned up anything serious, the individual would not be allowed to stay in the community.
"I don't care if you have a speeding ticket or trespassing," Simon said. "All I'm concerned about is if you have priors for drug trafficking or sexual assaults or anything that had to do with harming children."
Tremblay said the RCMP would divulge only the existence of a record, not the details.
While Tremblay said the program has to be approved, Simon said background checks began this summer. Two people have been flagged and forced to leave the community, he said.
As a result, Simon said, Elsipogtog has become a safer place, with fewer drug problems and break-ins.
"If you're in here for the sole reason of exploiting my people, then you're out," he said.
Simon acknowledged that security checks won't prevent all crime.
They couldn't have stopped an attempted kidnapping of a young girl on the reserve earlier this summer, for example. A non-aboriginal man was charged with the crime.
The chief said he is leaving it to the community, more than the local police, to keep an eye on random visitors.
Suggested to other communities
Simon is encouraging other native communities, such as Eskinuopitijk, to adopt the same strategy.
Members of that community, which is commonly known as Burnt Church, were marching on Tuesday to bring attention to the disappearance of Hilary Bonnell, a 16-year-old who has been missing for three weeks.
Bonnell's disappearance has made everyone question the safety of the northeastern community.
Patty Joe, a local mother, said the teen's disappearance has made her become a stricter parent.
"They're not allowed to go biking around or walking around by themselves," Joe said. "They also have to travel in pairs. And even then we're still worried about them."