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Sask. First Nation threatens to evict residents of suspected drug houses

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A Saskatchewan First Nation has declared a state of emergency after a spate of seven overdoses in a single day.

“We must do something, and this is our first step; our leadership is taking urgent measures to address the drug problem in the community,” Red Pheasant Cree Nation Chief Lux Benson said in a news release.

A representative for the First Nation said community leaders were in meetings all day on Monday to talk about how to deal with issues from overdose prevention and mental health treatment to interrupting the drug supply.

"How can we get dealers off reserve? That's a big one for us," Austin Ahenakew told CTV News.

Over the next week, Ahenakew said community leaders will be reaching out to partners at Indigenous Services Canada and other local groups to develop a strategy.

No one died as a result of the overdoses, and Ahenakew says staff at the community's clinic were able to reverse a number of the overdoses using narcan — a drug that blocks the effects of opioid drugs like fentanyl.

“Going forward, we definitely want to get it in more hands and people trained on the use of it," he said.

The other side of the coin for Red Pheasant leadership is enforcement.

On Saturday, Red Pheasant’s leadership called on police to step up their presence in the community.

“One of the key partners we need in this effort is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who have the mandate and the expertise to enforce the law and disrupt the supply of illicit substances. We urge the RCMP to step up and help us address this challenge by increasing their presence, resources, and collaboration.”

According to Benson, residents in houses suspected of drug dealing activity are being told they could have their utilities disconnected and houses boarded up.

So far, Ahenakew says no one is getting evicted, but people are being warned.

"We want to give people a chance to stop what they're doing if they're selling drugs."

He said there was also discussion about hiring security officers.

In its statement, Red Pheasant calls on both the federal health minister and the Government of Saskatchewan sit down to discuss a health care strategy “that will work” for First Nations.

“Red Pheasant believes these actions are necessary to protect the Treaty and the inherent rights of First Nations people and to ensure their health, well-being, and dignity,” the release said.

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