The ʔaq’am Community has declared a State of Emergency in response to drug and gang-related deaths and violence, following a tragedy that claimed the life of a resident last month.
The declaration follows meetings between ʔaq’am Nasuʔkin, Council and Elders, and outlines five calls to action to protect elders, children and families.
“Our recent community tragedy is the direct result of gangs and those affiliated with gangs pushing drugs in our community which has created the conditions for violence and death to occur,” reads the declaration posted online by ʔaq’am administration.
The calls to action include asking ʔaq’am residents to be vigilant in reporting criminal activity to RCMP and Council, calling on the federal and provincial levels of government to fulfill investigative and prosecutorial responsibilities for drug and gang crimes on community lands.
Additional steps include sending out the declaration to Ktunaxa communities in the Kootenays, as well as in the United States, along with associated provincial and federal law enforcement agencies.
ʔaq’am is also reviewing the budget and revenue sources to determine how to support residents who are living with a drug addiction to access services they need.
Further steps include preparing for active monitoring of ʔaq’am lands, as well as engaging with legal counsel to determine what authorities ʔaq’am can exercise through the use of urgent laws enacted under the land code, or traditional laws around banishment.
Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by the drug poisoning crisis in the province, according to the First Nation’s Health Authority. In 2022, Indigenous people represented 16.4 per cent of toxic drug poisoning deaths in B.C.
Two years ago, governments of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, including Yaq̓ it ʔa·knuqⱡiʾit (Tobacco Plains), ʔakisq̓ nuk, Yaqan Nuʔkiy (Lower Kootenay) and ʔaq̓ am (St. Mary), previously declared a mental health state of emergency, citing impacts from past and present post-colonial trauma, compounded by the toxic drug crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.