Pubdate: Wed, 03 Dec 2008
Source: Lakeside Leader, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Lakeside Leader
Author: Patrick Keller


The fallout of crime on a nearby First Nation reserve has made victims
of many families, and threatens to undermine the social fabric of the
community, according to the chief and band council of the Swan River

Readers may be familiar with the story, which first appeared in last
week's Leader.

On Nov. 15, Faust, High Prairie and lakeshore RCMP detachments raided
a house on the small reserve near Kinuso, Alberta. Police were
confident they would find drugs, but were surprised to find 20 people
in and around the home. As a result of the bust, seven people were
charged with a variety of offenses, including possession of a
controlled substance and breaching court orders. Several of the
detainees were minors.

Before the dust settled, The Leader received a call from the tenant of
the home, Maureen Davis. Davis was concerned that she had been
unfairly singled out and was about to be evicted from her home of
seven years as a result of the police raid.

"I don't appear anywhere on the police report," she told us. "I have
not been charged with anything and I was not home at the time of the
bust. These are false accusations and allegations against me."

What Davis was referring to was a quickly prepared notice of eviction
from the band and council of the Swan River First Nation.

The charges listed include abandonment of property, having other
tenants in the home without council's permission, boarding fugitives
and drug trafficking, along with some other minor complaints.

In her defense, Davis claimed to have never abandoned the

She also claims to not have known about minors in the home and says
she was unaware of a rule that stipulates tenants cannot have
roommates without the band's permission.

"Some of the people that appear on the police report live on the
reserve here," she told us. "They have been charged for drugs, but
they haven't been evicted from their homes or kicked off the reserve.
I don't know why I am being targeted."

But things happen fast on the reserve. Before she could finish telling
us her story, the police had arrived, at the request of the band
council, and Davis was arrested for refusing to leave.

Within an hour of our phone conversation, Davis had been forcibly
removed from the home, and it had been boarded up, with all of her
possessions still inside. Hoping to get an objective story, The Leader
contacted Chief Leon Chalifoux of the Swan River band.

He had a different take on the events leading up to Davis' eviction
and the situation on the reserve as a whole.

"We're very scared right now," said Chalifoux. "As you know, there has
been a lot of crime in the community. We're tired of it, and we are
going to do whatever we can to stop it."

As for the eviction, Chalifoux says they are well within the law when
it comes to residents living in homes owned by the band.

"We have been following the law on this matter the whole way through,"
said the chief.

Both Chalifoux and Davis invited The Leader to Swan River to take
photos of the home.

In Davis' case, it was hoped that we could document what was happening
to her. In Chalifoux's case, he wanted to send a message.

"This is just the beginning," said Chalifoux. "We want to let people
know what happens when their crime affects the community."

So, we took the trip to Swan River, arriving just in time to see the
last windows of Davis' former home being boarded up.

Chalifoux admitted that problems on the reserve are not exclusive to
one person, but an example must be made.

"There has been too many illegal activities. We see everything that
goes on here. We are aware of what is happening and we want it fixed."

As for Davis, it turns out that she doesn't have much

Chalifoux says that problems at Davis's former home have been
documented for some time. The bust was simply the straw that broke the
camels back.

Davis says she would appeal the eviction, but it would be a futile
gesture. "The housing board is made up of the same members of the band
council that had me evicted," Davis said. "I couldn't get a fair trial
there for sure."

So, Davis hasn't been kicked off of the reserve, but she will have a
hard time finding another home there. Right now, her future is uncertain.

As for the future of Swan River, Chief Chalifoux is more optimistic.
He feels that if they keep turning up the pressure, they can turn
things around for the better. It's only taken a few years for the
problem of drugs and crime to grip the community.

The way Chalifoux sees it, there is still time to pull out of the
tailspin, but it will take real work. In that time, it seems, some
folks are going to be evicted.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin