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Chipewyan Prairie "at a crossroads, facing crisis"

Last Updated Feb 8, 2023 at 5:05 am MDT

Image supplied by the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation/web.

Chief Vern Janvier is calling for urgent support for Chipewyan Prairie First Nation (CPFN) and its members.

In a release, he urged the federal government and others for immediate assistance, noting a series of challenges that threaten his community’s health, safety, and sustainability.

“CPFN and our members are at a crossroads, and facing crisis, and we need the federal government and others to step up, in collaboration, to work with us on finding immediate and long-term solutions to a number of serious challenges.”

Located near the town of Janvier, the First Nation is home to about 1000 members.

Chief Janvier said several issues have plagued his community in recent years.

“These issues include the negative impacts of increasingly harmful substances and drug addiction on members and families, which were exacerbated by the social, physical and economic isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He also identified instances of property crime, fires, and vandalism, along with inflation in the cost of living compounding these problems for the CPFN.

Since 2018, he said on-reserve population has dropped by 10 per cent.

“Over the past few months, we have proactively done what we can to work with the federal government, however it appears our calls have fallen on deaf ears.”

Chief Janvier said if nothing is done, the crisis will only get worse.

“We are at the point where we have exhausted our own financial resources helping Elders, members, families and young people meet these challenges from providing food and life essentials to child care and welfare. COVID-19 support programs were helpful, but they are being phased out.”

What can be done

Chief Janvier said the overriding concern among the CPFN is with the children and youth, and the sustainability of the community.

“There are some immediate steps that the federal government can take, and if they don’t act we will need to engage with the Province, industry and others. Of course, I have long advocated that the main issue is the Indian Act itself, which has only hurt CPFN and many other Indigenous communities.”

He called on the need for the CPFN to directly program childcare.

“In the short term, empowering us to program child care and child welfare directly is what’s needed, including changes to how available funding can be released – right now – so it can get to the young people that need it.”

This comes as RMWB Council holds a special meeting on Feb. 7 to discuss an update on the Truth and Reconcilation Commission’s Calls To Action.

“What’s happening is sad and unfortunate, especially at a time when we are supposed to be working together towards reconciliation.”

The Council meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.