'I'm scared,' Sandy Bay woman says as First Nation struggles to cope with meth use

Community members in Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation are growing increasingly concerned about the sale of meth in their community. They are coming together at a community meeting on Thursday to discuss strategies to deal with the problem.

Community members call meeting to discuss solutions amid violence on Manitoba First Nation

People in Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation say they are struggling with meth use and violence in the community. (Submitted by RCMP)

Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation community members have organized a meeting to discuss methamphetamine in their community, which was the scene of an hours-long standoff with police this week, according to the Manitoba First Nations Police Service.

While police say it hasn't been determined whether meth was a factor in that standoff, some are calling meth use in the community an emergency.

The meeting at the community complex, scheduled for this Thursday, was planned after a number of violent incidents involving people on meth, said Giselle Demach, who helped organize the meeting.

"I'm scared and there is a lot of people that are scared because of this drug, and they want to do something about it," Demach said.

"They want to go about it the right way, but we don't know which way is the right way."

Sandy Bay's council passed a motion in 2017 that allows it to banish people who deal drugs to youth.

Chief Lance Roulette said a meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, but wouldn't confirm the information about recent violent incidents in Sandy Bay, saying he's waiting for a final report.

Standoff lasted 4-5 hours: police

Insp. Dave Scott of the Manitoba First Nations Police Service said police were involved in a standoff in the community on Monday that lasted four to five hours and prompted police to ask for help from the RCMP's emergency response team.

Around 7 p.m., a resident approached First Nations Police Service officers and told them about an armed robbery at a gas station. The resident identified a suspect and police attended a home where he was believed to be, Scott said.

"While they were setting up a perimeter around the house, they heard a gunshot," Scott said.

Officers called RCMP in Winnipeg for assistance, Scott said.

"It was at this time that the suspect saw the [emergency response team] approaching the residence, and he ran from the residence and subsequently was chased down by a canine and taken into custody."

A 23-year-old man faces multiple charges, including theft while armed with a weapon and resisting arrest. Scott said it's undetermined if meth was a factor in the incident.

"That standoff was a little something that was noteworthy, of course, for us, and a little scary to attend," Scott said.

"But I will say this — that it certainly helps when the community steps up, which they did in this case and helped identify the suspect."

'We have no help whatsoever,' elder says

Sandy Bay community members have considered following the lead of Sagkeeng First Nation, where two houses suspected of being used to sell drugs were demolished last month, Demach said.

Roulette has previously called for action against drugs, after a girl was pricked by a needle on a school playground in March.

But elder Eileen Roulette said she doesn't think actions like those taken by Sagkeeng get "at the root of the problem" — drug users need help.

"We have no help whatsoever. Our resources are limited," she said.

The First Nations police service's Scott said Sandy Bay isn't the only community in the area with concerns about meth use. Chiefs in the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council declared a state of emergency regarding the drug, he said.

In addition to Sandy Bay, the council includes chiefs from Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Dakota Tipi First Nation, Long Plain First Nation, Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, Swan Lake First Nation and Waywayseecappo First Nation.

"Certainly Sandy Bay is coming to the forefront, because the community stepped forward," he said. "They want to make a change."

Roulette made a Facebook post that called for ideas for fighting drug use in the community, and multiple community members who use drugs told her they wanted to quit but didn't know how, she said.

"Because that drug is right there, it's right next door, down the road. It's easy to get and it's cheap," she said.

People told Roulette the only way to fight the drug is to get the dealers out of the community, she said.

"But now it's like, how do we find out who the dealer is? How do we get that proof?"

She's frustrated that the meeting, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, has been pushed back to Thursday.

"It is an emergency with the meth, all the other drugs going around on the reserve," she said. "We can see it in the young people, their appearance. You know what's going on."

She hopes community members, especially mothers and grandmothers, go to the meeting and share their experiences.

She also wants community leaders to say what they plan to do to fix the problem.