Saskatoon

'Very sad for me': Northern Sask. chief reacts to alleged bootlegging attempt

RCMP have laid charges against four people for allegedly trying to bring alcohol into the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation for resale.

RCMP charged 4 adults after weekend seizure of 'large amount' of liquor

Some of the liquor seized by RCMP from a boat that docked at the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation. (RCMP)

Four people are accused of attempting to bring what RCMP are calling a "substantial amount" of alcohol into a northern Saskatchewan First Nation over the weekend.

In a release, police said a boat that originated from Barge Landing was stopped Sunday morning after docking at the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation, approximately 700 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

The vessel was stopped and searched because RCMP believed a large amount of alcohol for potential resale within the community may have been on board.

RCMP said they found and seized 58 bottles of hard liquor and various other bottles and cans of liquor.

Four adults were charged with selling or offering to sell, display or keep beverage alcohol under Section 138(1) of the Alcohol and Gaming Regulations Act, which RCMP spokesperson Mandy Maier said is "essentially bootlegging."

"The quantity of alcohol located and seized was significant," she said. "Any time we can take that risk out of the community where there's a resale of alcohol, that's part of the investigational goal."

The Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation is a dry community, meaning liquor is prohibited — a bylaw its chief said has been in place for decades.

Chief Bart Tsannie said RCMP called him about the seizure, saying, "You need to see this."

"When I got to where they had the seized alcohol, it was just very, very too much for me, how much they seized from these people," he said.

'RCMP has to be lucky'

There were eight alcohol-related deaths in the community between July of last year and this past July, Tsannie said.

"It's very sad for me because as chief we're trying to prevent this alcohol from being brought to our reserve," he said. "But there are people that are constantly bringing alcohol to our First Nation."

He said alcohol is a "very big problem" in his community, adding enforcement of the local bylaw is made more difficult by the fact the neighbouring settlement of Wollaston Lake does not prohibit alcohol.

There is currently no all-weather road to Tsannie's community, meaning people bringing in alcohol in the summer months for illegal resale are arriving on a plane or on the water.

"We don't know when people are coming back. RCMP has to be lucky," he said. "They've got to be there at the right time just to get people coming back on a boat.

"A lot of them are just sneaking in and it's very hard to catch them."

Tsannie said he is planning to meet with local and regional RCMP officials to try to come up with a strategy. 

The four suspects will appear in court in Wollaston Lake on Oct. 14.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Provost

Journalist

Kelly Provost is a newsreader and reporter with CBC News in Saskatoon. He covers sports, northern and land-based topics among general news. He has also worked as a news director in northern Saskatchewan, covering Indigenous issues for over 20 years. Email him at kelly.provost@cbc.ca.

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