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RCMP's action against gangs, drug trafficking, applauded by PBCN chief

Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation had declared a state of emergency in October 2023 after escalating gang violence that terrorized the community.

PELICAN NARROWS – RCMP conducted a series of targeted enforcement efforts aimed at curbing gang activity and eliminating illegal weapons and drug trafficking in Pelican Narrows.

Between Feb. 9 and 11, Pelican Narrows RCMP and La Ronge RCMP Crime Reduction Team (CRT) seized five illegal firearms, confiscated 210 grams of methamphetamine, and arrested 12 people.

“This action by the RCMP is a crucial step in our collective battle against the drug and substance abuse issues linked to gang activity in our community,” said Chief Karen Bird of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) in a media release.

PBCN has one of the highest crime rates in Canada and faces socio-economic challenges, which federal reports identify not enough and inadequate housing and high unemployment as factors. 

In response to escalating gang activity and associated violence, PBCN had declared a state of emergency in October 2023.

On Monday, Bird emphasized the importance of collaborating with law enforcement.

“We are deeply grateful for the RCMP's efforts to directly confront these challenges. Every arrest and every ounce of drugs taken out of our community is a step towards reclaiming our community from the grips of gangs and drug trafficking. It's about taking back our future.”

Bird said to build on the RCMP’s momentum, the band is doubling down on its commitment to strategies that provide positive alternatives and address the root causes of involvement in gangs and drug activities.

“(This) operation is part of our collective commitment with law enforcement to moving toward a path of healing, safety, and prosperity for Pelican Narrows, free from the influence of gangs.” 

Taking aim at gang activity, violence, drug trafficking

Violence and drug trafficking won’t be tolerated in Pelican Narrows, said Insp. Stephen Bergerman from Saskatchewan RCMP's North District in a media release Monday.

“The Crime Reduction Team and Pelican Narrows RCMP members did an excellent job over the weekend – and our efforts will continue.”

The highly-trained officers on the RCMP CRT’s aim to reduce gang activity and have the ability to react fast.

“The purpose of the CRTs is to conduct targeted enforcement with the objective of enhancing community safety – and they’re able to deploy anywhere they are needed in Saskatchewan RCMP jurisdiction,” said S/Sgt. Ryan How, RCMP’s Saskatchewan Enforcement Response Team’s North District Manager.

“This is a perfect example of the effectiveness of our local RCMP detachments teaming up with CRT to remove dangerous weapons and drugs from the streets – and to arrest and charge those responsible for possessing them.”

The weekend arrests

Ashton Ballantyne, who was wanted on multiple warrants for offences including assault and assault with a weapon, turned himself in after police started looking for him on Feb. 9.

RCMP determined Ballantyne had recently been at a cabin and left behind two firearms. As officers continued searching for him, he turned himself into the Pelican Narrows RCMP detachment. There, he was arrested on his outstanding warrants and additionally charged with seven firearms-related offences and weapons trafficking.

A male youth was arrested after he was seen fleeing from officers who were conducting proactive patrols on Feb. 9. As he fled, police saw him throw items away. The items, a hatchet and machete, were located and retrieved.

The youth was charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. He can’t be identified due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

A man, Earl Ballantyne, 30, who was wanted for failing to appear in court, was spotted during proactive patrols on Feb. 10. Officers approached Ballantyne, who was with Raeanna Michel, 24.

Police say they had a bag that contained a firearm and ammunition. Ballantyne and Michel, both from Pelican Narrows, were each charged with six firearm-related offences. Ballantyne was arrested on his outstanding warrant and additionally charged with three counts of breaching release order conditions.

Following a traffic stop on Feb. 10, police seized a vehicle, 60 grams of methamphetamine and a hatchet from a vehicle. During the traffic stop they saw open alcohol in plain view.

Angelique Michel, 31, Glen Ballantyne, 29, and Samara Linklater, 19, were charged with possession for purpose of trafficking and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Police executed a search warrant at a home on Feb. 10 and seized about 150 grams of methamphetamine and two firearms, one sawed-off.

Christa Sewap, 33, Gavin McCallum, 30, Colton Bighetty, 27, and Nadine Linkalter, 19, were all charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and numerous firearms-related offences.

All accused have been remanded in custody until their court appearances this week.

Contraband alcohol seized

Officers also seized contraband alcohol during a number of check stops over the weekend. Alcohol is prohibited in Pelican Narrows by local bylaw.

Police say some investigations from the weekend continue.

If you have information about any suspicious or criminal activity in Pelican Narrows, report it to Pelican Narrows RCMP at 306-632-3300. Information can also be submitted anonymously by contacting Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or www.saskcrimestoppers.com.

Signs of gang membership

Gang activity has gained a strong foothold in Saskatchewan, according to Stan Tu’Inkuafe from STR8 UP, a Saskatoon-based non-profit that helps people leave the lifestyle.

Gangs recruit members as young as eight.

Tu’Inkuafe previously told SASKTODAY that there are signs parents can watch for that may indicate gang membership.

“If a young person lives in one place, does he/she have new friends, access to money all of a sudden, not going to school, leaving at one in the morning, coming home with bruises, if they were open with parents before but now all of a sudden they are secretive, and if the slang they use becomes different.”

Gang members are recruited at schools, but many are recruited in prisons with inmates joining for protection and safety, said Tu’Inkuafe.

There are no simple answers to why people join gangs and the reasons vary but there’s a common thread – addiction, according to Tu’Inkuafe.

This addiction is generational.

According to the Provincial Gang Strategy Forum, Saskatchewan’s Indigenous peoples are still impacted by colonization and the inter-generational trauma associated with racism.

The emerging generations of Indigenous youth are still dealing with the trauma — the residual effects of the Indian residential school era. This continues the cycle of suicide, addictions and now gang activity.

Racism is a huge part, said Tu’Inkuafe.

“It hasn’t gone away. It’s just veiled, more subtle. It’s in the tone, the disapproving look.”

Tu’Inkuafe said people are more aware of racism and being prejudiced so they are just more careful.

But racism seeps through.

“It can be something as simple as how a social services worker talks to a client. The way they (clients) are talked to is different.”

How to get out of a street gang: STR8 UP shares its successful formula

STR8 UP is a grassroots organization that had its beginnings decades ago when Father André Poilièvre, a lead chaplain at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, teamed up with Stan Tu’Inkuafe, a youth worker with the John Howard Society.

Under the umbrella of the John Howard Society they developed an outreach program to help gang members. In 2013 STR8 UP left the John Howard Society and formed a separate non-profit charity.

Today STR8 UP offers outreach services and programs, provides advocacy and support in prisons and courtrooms, and connects former gang members with community supports and resources. They help gang members get out of the gang, return to school, get a job, find housing and stay out of prison.

STR8 UP doesn’t recruit or advertise. They reach gang members by word of mouth. Often that’s while the gang member is in jail. Other methods are through friends or support workers, or hospital emergency staff.

If you want to get out of a street gang, call STR8 UP at 306-763-3001 in Prince Albert, or 306-244-1771 in Saskatoon, or email them at info@str8-up.ca

ljoy@glaciermedia.ca

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