Coleen Pierre is mad and wants to reclaim the Katzie community from those threatening it.
She’s tired of the kids being scared to go outside, tired of the confrontations between residents and the drunks and addicts that hang around, and the tension it puts everyone under on the Katzie First Nation reserve in Pitt Meadows.
So she’s taking her concerns to her neighbours, hoping they feel the same way and has organized a Reclaiming Our Community march, for this Sunday, at 3 p.m.
“Everything has been getting escalated … in the last six months.
“I got tired of not feeling safe anymore. I took it upon myself and said screw this, ‘We’re doing it.’”
The response she’s received so far is encouraging, with many saying they’ll be in front of the band office, where people will carry signs and pound drums.
She wants to deliver the message “loud and clear that we will no longer tolerate the effects that this poison is doing to many hearts and minds everywhere … It may be a start for many more to come. I am taking a stand, and I hope and pray that I get your support and stand alongside of my community,” she said.
“The problem has always been there.”
But in the past year there’s been an increase in the number of alcohol and drug-fuelled fights, vandalism and theft, with more people – both native and non-native – who don’t belong on the reserve, taking up residence on the band.
Pierre says there are about 30 people in their late teens and early 20s causing the mischief and creating the fear.
She calls the strangers squatters and notes many are living at the landfill on the northern portion of Katzie land on Bonson Road.
About half of the 30 or so are non-native.
“We actually know who they are and where they’re headed.”
She’s inviting everyone on the reserve and anybody in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge to show up and to bring their lawn chair or umbrella and a dish for a potluck dinner to follow. The goal is to bring at least some peace and security back to the reserve so kids can play in the outdoors without fear.
“That’s who I’m doing it for, the next generation.”
She wants to make a better future for the younger generation by stressing the importance of education as a way to move forward.
“They definitely don’t feel safe down here anymore.”
It’s so bad that parents have to drive their little kids two or three homes away, she confides.
Pierre’s concern is evident in her voice. She talks in muted tones so as not to alert neighbours. The band council has asked her to tone it down a bit, for her own safety.
It used to be that drug and alcohol addiction were under control and the heavy drinking would take place on weekends. Now, the tone is different and it’s more confrontational.
“Now, it’s every day of the week. Even two to three in the middle of the afternoon.”
Pierre said years ago when there was an agreement with Ridge Meadows RCMP, officers used to make regular patrols on the reserve. Now, they only show up when responding to an incident.
Katzie resident Eileen Kenworthy said everybody from throughout Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge is welcome on Sunday.
“We need all the support we can get.”
No one on the Katzie band council wanted to comment about the issue.
Two years ago, band resident Harold Moody raised the same issue.
In 2011, Moody was trying to get the Katzie administration to crack down on seven houses on the reserve, which he claimed harboured unsavoury folks.
His complaints to the RCMP, Pitt Meadows fire department and band office, he said, fell on deaf ears.
Moody claimed several houses on Katzie were being used as bases to rip apart stolen wires and cables, as well as melt down metal, which is then sold at a metal recycling depot down the road. He was later doused with gasoline, but survived the attack.
Ridge Meadows RCMP say they haven’t noticed an increase in crime on the reserve recently.