17 people, mostly youths, linked to trashing of arena at Montreal Lake
According to the local detachment of the RCMP, the damage took place some time prior to Monday morning when they were called with a report of a break and enter to the community's arena.
Lobby windows had been smashed, several sheets of plexi-glass around the ice surface had been shattered and an untold number of walls and ceilings were ripped apart.
We're not going to give up on these young people- Roger Bird
Roger Bird, a Montreal Lake band councillor in charge of sport, culture, recreation and youth, said Tuesday he estimates about $30,000 to $40,000 in damage has been done.
"Tables were thrown from the upper level ... our bingo board was thrown from up there, so yeah everything that was up there was kind of thrown down," Bird recalled. "We have a pool table that is upside down, they used the pool balls to break the glass in the skating part area."
The building was also splattered throughout with paint.
Police said their investigation led them to believe that 17 people were involved, all from the Montreal Lake Cree Nation.
As of Tuesday, one adult, an 18-year-old man, had been charged and five youths, aged 13 to 15, had also been charged.
A call for help
Bird has been working with young people in the community for more than two decades. He said he has seen matters on the Cree Nation worsen in recent years and he believes the teens' reckless acts are a call for help in disguise.
"Our community has been faced with a lot of youth suicide, in the last eight to six months," Bird explained. "I think we kind of need to take a step backwards, think, and try and deal with the situation in a positive manner."
Bird said he and other leaders on the nation met on Tuesday morning to talk about the next steps for their community. They plan to hold a meeting for all members of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation at its gymnasium on August 6. Bird said that the teens involved with the vandalism, and their parents, are expected to attend.
"It is not because of boredom, it is not because of lack of activities, I think they're just reaching out," Bird said. "Were going to try and reach out, and were not going to give up on these young people."
Police said they were working with the local chief and council, and others in the community, on the incident and their investigation was ongoing.
Images posted to social media sites, such as Facebook, revealed considerable damage and elicited strong condemnation from people commenting on the images.