First Nation temporarily bans alcohol after 18-year-old beaten to death

Leaders of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation have imposed a temporary alcohol ban in response to the beating death of an 18-year-old man.

Marcus Spence was killed at a house party in Nelson House on Feb. 20

RCMP are investigating Marcus Spence's death as a homicide. (Submitted by Kelly Spence)

Leaders of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation have imposed a temporary alcohol ban in response to the beating death of an 18-year-old man.

Family has identified the victim as Marcus Spence.

Chief Marcel Moody said First Nation safety officers and RCMP will be confiscating and destroying any alcohol that is brought in to the community, also known as Nelson House.

He said a checkstop on the road into the First Nation will be manned 24/7.

"We're trying to find a way to try and stop or slow down the problems with respect to gang activity and drug problems and bootlegging in our community," said Moody by phone from NCN.

Chief and council have called a meeting for March 14 so the community can collectively decide how to deal with these issues.

Moody said drugs, particularly opioids, are causing a lot of problems and violence in the community. He said drugs and gangs go hand-in-hand.

"If the demand is always there, the supply will always be there no matter what we do," Moody said.

"I am reaching out to the people to ask them, stop what you're doing, create a healthy community for their kids, for themselves, for the community."

Leaders of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation have put temporary alcohol ban in effect after a man was killed on Feb. 20. RCMP are investigating the death as a homicide. (Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation)

RCMP have charged three men, ages 23, 27 and 31, with first-degree murder in Spence's death. A 27-year-old man is wanted on the same charge. 

All four men are from the First Nation.

NCN, which is 666 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has 3,300 band members, 60 per cent of which are under the age of 30.

"Our children are being used as runners to carry and sell these illicit drugs for people who are trying to make a fast profit," said Cheryl Moore, who is vice-chief.

She said she plans on proposing a ban on illicit drugs, which will carry harsh consequences if violated, to community members at the March meeting.

"I know in other First Nations, where they dealt with drug dealers, they withheld services such as water, essential services … people are even being evicted from their home," she said.

Evictions for those caught dealing drugs or bootlegging is something she supports, since the community has a waiting list for housing of more than 500 people.

But ultimately, she said the decision will be up to the community.

Kelly Spence held this poster with her son's picture at a vigil in his honour on Sunday. (Submitted by Kelly Spence)

NCN put a temporary alcohol ban in place last year after three boys were killed by an allegedly drunk driver.

"The community was really happy we did that, there was so much peace and harmony in the community in that two-week process," said Moody.

He said permanent prohibition does not work and would only encourage bootlegging. Normally, he said, band members are permitted to bring a limited amount of alcohol into the community for personal use. He said most comply and are respectful and responsible.

He hopes people will respect the ban and things will calm down in the community this week while Spence's family holds a wake and funeral.

Spence's family was not ready to do an interview, but told CBC they appreciate the temporary alcohol ban and plan on attending the community meeting on March 14.

Dozens of people attended a vigil on Sunday outside of the home where Spence's body was found. (Submitted by Alvin Yetman)