The protest was just minutes minutes away on Sunday afternoon, and so far Coleen Pierre, her grandchildren, and a few other family members, were the only people at the Katzie band office.
The former band administrator had made signs bearing slogans designed to make people think about escalating crime on the reserve. She has had enough, and thought others would support an anti-crime initiative.
“I stood there at 20-to-three, and thought ‘what if it’s just me and the grandsons?’”
But in that last 20 minutes, the ranks of the marchers swelled to about 70 people, which she says was an excellent turnout considering the band lists some 500 members, with about 300 living on-reserve. In total, she counted 29 Katzie households that were involved.
They marched with the signs, to the sound of traditional drumming and speaking, and at four intersections along their route they stopped and shared their thoughts. It was the kind of day Pierre had envisioned.
“My God, it was fabulous,” she said. “Even some of the youth spoke, and shared their stories – their experiences, difficulties and situations they faced.”
She said some participants came from neighbouring communities, and an elder from Burnaby gave an inspirational talk about his decision to have a drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyle.
“People have to realize that there are more people affected by their negative actions,” said Pierre.
It was a completely peaceful anti-crime demonstration, that ended with a party in the park.
She said the event was a success in that it brought people in Katzie together. “Neighbours need to rebuild trust and comfort,” she said.
Mike Stark has connections to Katzie and was one of the non band members who took part in the event.
“It was a pretty powerful march,” said Stark. “There were a lot of people who came together as one voice, and they spoke from the heart.”
He gave credit to the Katzie “matriarchs” who made the event happen. Stark pointed out that residents of downtown Maple Ridge also took action when they got tired of crime in their drug-plagued neighbourhood.
“Downtown Maple Ridge had the same issues, and the neighbourhood came together. This really is no different.”
He thinks it will help.
“It makes a tremendous difference where people come together for community.”
Pierre maintains that much of the criminal element on the reserve is brought by non-band members, whom she calls “squatters.”
She worked for 26 years at the band office, in roles ranging from receptionist to band administrator.
“My kids thought I would die at the band office,” she said.
But she has been retired for four years, and she spoke to the crowd only as “a concerned member of the Katzie First Nation.”
Pierre next plans to re-energize the Katzie community safety committee, to address issues of crime and drug abuse.
“I told them, the last heartbeat of that drum – when it quits, that’s not the end.”