Confidence lost in RCMP, says First Nation calling for external investigation into deaths of 2 girls
The chief of a Manitoba First Nation where two girls were found dead outside earlier this month says the community has lost confidence in the RCMP investigation and its ability to stop rampant drug trafficking.
St. Theresa Point Chief Elvin Flett held a news conference Friday morning in Winnipeg to call for an external police service to look into the deaths of the two 14-year-old girls, Dayna Megan Madison Shingoose and Emily Marie Mason.
He also called for a special coroner’s inquest into the deaths as well as past questionable deaths on the First Nation, saying people in the community “strongly suspect” the RCMP may not have properly investigated those deaths.
Flett did not identify any specific questionable deaths.
Shingoose and Mason were found outside a home on the First Nation, about 460 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, on the morning of March 1.
RCMP believe the girls were outside for a period of time on a night when the temperature dropped to –23 C. They were taken to the nursing station, where they were pronounced dead.
Autopsies haven’t been completed yet, but Flett said he and others firmly believe the girls died as a result of consuming illicit drugs.
“It is a fair and justified assumption on our part that authorities will confirm this. Hypothermia is a secondary cause,” he said.
He’s worried the autopsy results will just be a formality “to fulfil the legal and statutory requirements” without any accountability for the deaths.
“It will merely become a statistic,” Flett said. “In these two deaths, the failure of authorities to pursue and lay charges to drug distributors responsible for the deaths is the failure of the legal system.”
He wants the provincial and federal governments to meet with his community and negotiate an aggressive drug enforcement strategy.
“Chief and council can no longer accept that the proliferation of drugs and harmful substances within our community can continue without significant pushback. We must protect and preserve our youth,” he said.
Flett said the community is prepared to enact its own safety and protection laws within ancestral lands.
That includes searching all members and non-members upon arrival at St. Theresa Point if they want their luggage and other belongings allowed into the community, which is only accessible by air or winter road.
“St. Theresa Point First Nation will position itself to address the rampant proliferation of drug and substance abuse trafficking in our community,” Flett said.
Carlos Castillo, a vice-president of Perimeter Airlines, which serves northern communities, said the company is bringing in drug sniffing dogs in the next few months at the request of Flett and other chiefs in the area.
The measures are being paid for by Perimeter and the First Nations.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said the situation in St. Theresa Point and other First Nations communities in the province has become dire.
More than a dozen First Nations have declared states of emergency this month, including a group of 11 on Thursday alone. There are a variety of reasons for the declarations, but one common denominator is addictions-related deaths.
“These deaths are related to the inaction of the governments on drug trafficking and lack of mental health and health services in our First Nation communities,” Merrick said.
“Addictions have plagued their communities for far too long, with no crisis intervention or long-term solutions. That’s what we want, some solutions.
“And we need the resources to be able to help our young people, to be able to help families that are devastated by losing their loved one.”
Merrick said she will fully stand behind Flett if he implements customary laws to protect his citizens.
“This community’s not asking for anything beyond what every other citizen in this country has: safety in their homes, health services and fair access to justice.”