Emily-Ann Chick didn’t think much about it a few weeks ago when she posted a comment about her little sister being scared by a woman walking around on the Katzie Reserve without any clothes.
Chick relayed her frustrations on social media, which resulted in Katzie First Nation chief Susan Miller calling an emergency meeting to discuss the “increasing invasion of undesirable people into our community,” bringing drugs and crime, stolen goods and addiction to the reserve.
“Every single night, I have to sleep with ear plugs in,” because of the speeding cars, said Chick.
It’s not only noise that bothers the 300 or so residents on the reserve, which borders Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows along the Fraser River.
Chick and other band members are tired of non-members setting up tents, sleeping in campers or RVs, or on couches in the homes of band members on the Katzie First Nations reserve.
They are tired of coping with the social ills brought by non-members.
“We’re getting fed up. People are counting on us stopping and not continuing to do it. I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Coleen Pierre, who tried a similar initiative in 2013.
Many nights, she gets only a few hours sleep because of the carrying on at night.
“We want our community back. When they go to bed, they’re prowling around.”
In the previous attempt in 2013, only small groups of members approached strangers, asking them to leave. But those who did, often just came back.
Now, the entire community’s involved. Groups of 12 to 60 Katzie members patrol the neighbourhood almost daily and confront problem houses and ask strangers to leave.
“We’re referring to this as taking back our community,” Miller said. “Our children cannot play on the streets. There are crackheads that are twitching, pretty much. We have witnessed people with needles in their arms in the middle of the day, shooting up in our community.”
One entire house has been evicted and will be demolished in September.
Miller also admits that there are some band members doing the same thing and they’re being dealt with.
People often think First Nations reserves are lawless and that people can do whatever they want, which isn’t true, she pointed out.
The band has talked with the RCMP, which takes the position that if someone invites a non-member on to the reserve, they can’t be removed.
So instead, the band is trying to use group persuasion to get the point that strangers, including other First Nations, all but Katzie, should depart.
“And if the RCMP won’t make them go away, we will, as a community, make them go away. That’s by continually destroying their tents, continually removing their belongings and continually looking them in the face and saying that they’re unwelcome.’
“They bring no value to this community.
“You have to have a purpose to be here.”
Miller said the patrols will continue as long as necessary. Names and licence plates are being jotted down, and if there’s any trouble, they call RCMP.
With traffic going through the reserve at all hours, the band council is looking at setting up gates and 24-hour security.
Miller wants the community to become safe again for children to play in the streets.
The patrols, she added, have already had an effect, with one elder saying he’s now sleeping better.
“We’re done with our children and elders being intimidated in our streets by people who have no issue telling us to f-off.”
Miller doesn’t want to give the impression that the band is trying to offload its problems on to the wider community.
“But these are also problems that we didn’t create. They should have a venue to seek help.”
Some of them work, but just choose a different lifestyle, which is fine, but they can’t do it on the reserve, she added.
“We need this community to behave like the community when we were young. And that it was a wonderful place to be.”