New Brunswick

Elsipogtog roadblocks planned to keep drugs out of community

John Levi plans to put road blocks up on the three roads into and out of Elsipogtog First Nations to stop the flow of drugs into the community.

Warrior chief John Levi says 'It's about time we made a stand and got our community back' from influx of drugs

John Levi, an Elsipogtog warrior chief, plans to set up roadblocks in his community to stem the flow of drugs. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

John Levi, the warrior chief at Elsipogtog First Nation, is planning to erect roadblocks on the three routes into the Mi'kmaq community in an attempt to curtail what he says is a steady stream of street drugs entering the reserve.

"It's been many years that we've had problems with drugs in our reserve," said Levi.

"It's not only Elsipogtog that's having problems, it's every community, but after so many years you know we decided we're going to stand up and get our community back."

Members of the community name hydromorphone, an opioid pain medication, and crystal methamphetamine, an illegal street drug, as some of the substances being brought in to the community. 

We are First Nations and we make our own laws.- John Levi, warrior chief

Levi says people with drug problems are stealing others' personal property and sometimes sending their kids to bed hungry because any family income is funneled into drugs.

DJ Joseph, Elsiopogtog Nation administrator, says he's not aware of the plan, but he sees some potential for success.

"I personally would applaud anything that helps deter some of the more negative things that kind of come up in Elsipogtog," he said.

DJ Joseph, the Elsipogtog administrator, said he would support any move to block drugs from coming into the First Nation (CBC)
Joseph grew up in the Mi'kmaq community and is aware of the difficulties some families face.

"Addiction plays a huge part in almost every … aspect of Elsipogtog life," said Joseph. 

"Often times other things fall out of place whenever there's an addiction in the house."

There are a number of programs in place on the reserve, including a needle exchange, group therapy, an addiction centre, a crisis unit and family support.

But Joseph explains funding for these programs isn't easy to come by. He says many programs are started, but without core funding the initiatives don't always stick.

"I kind of see it as a balance that hasn't been hit yet," he said.

Joseph says as a band administrator, he thinks a lot of work has to be done before the plan is put into action, like making sure Levi has proper authorization, and the RCMP is informed.

Roadblocks are illegal

The RCMP won't confirm it is aware of any plans to erect community road blocks. 

Sgt. Benoit Jolette says the RCMP is always open to receiving information from the public, but is not in favour of people taking the law into their own hands, adding roadblocks are illegal.

Levi said he wants the RCMP to be involved, but ultimately he said he only needs permission from the band chief and council. 

"Once we get the approval from the chief and council we aren't breaking any laws, we are First Nations and we make our own laws," he said.

Levi doesn't plan to search each car passing by, but does want to keep track who is coming and going in Elsipogtog.

While the RCMP conduct check stops in the community, Levi feels this one will be more effective because no one knows the community like the people who live there.

"We know who is bringing the drugs into the reserve and we're just going to be standing and waiting for the right people that are bringing in the drugs," he explained.

Eight people have volunteered to help conduct check stops, and Levi says about 25 elders are on board with the plan.

The CBC spoke to a number of members of the community and none would go on record.

But many said they are in favour of the roadblocks and hope it does slow the flow of drugs entering the community.

Others expressed concern about the loss of personal rights.

Levi said he knows the move is a controversial one but he feels the potential benefits to the First Nation are worth the infringement of personal freedoms.