Gun safety is a big topic in Mistissini these days as firearms incidents have risen sharply.
The latest occurred at 6:30 a.m. on November 6. According to Mistissini police, an argument occurred at a party and a man left. He went to his vehicle, took out a gun and fired in the direction of the house.
David Longchap was charged with careless use of a firearm on November 9 in relation to the incident.
Three other incidents have taken place in Mistissini in the past year involving people walking around with guns in an unsafe way. No one has been injured. Prior to the four incidents this year, the last such event was in 1992.
It’s a problem other Cree communities have had to deal with also.
Mistissini police are patient when an incident takes place and talk to the perpetrator. Eventually, the person calms down and surrenders their weapon. In southern climes where rates of firearm incidents are higher, SWAT teams would be called out and the results would likely be different.
Even though the rise in incidents seems high, Mistissini police insist the community is safe.
“This isn’t a usual problem for the police or the community,” said Chief Constable Michael Petawabano.
He said his department is addressing the problem and there is no need for anyone to panic. It’s not the type of problem Mistissini or other communities would like to see blown out of proportion.
Nemaska public-safety officer Matthew Wapachee said his community went through the same type of problems five years ago. Nemaska’s solution was to buy each residential household managed by the band council a gun cabinet and trigger locks for all the guns.
“It gave us safety and time to look for the actual problems behind firearm incidents so we could deal with them on a long-term basis,” said Wapachee. “The tenants keep their guns in these cabinets.”
Wapachee said Nemaska residents wanted to prevent accidents and to make sure kids wouldn’t be playing with any guns that were just laying around.
Nemaska combined the plan with a wellness program that would deal with the problems behind the incidents.
Wapachee is getting ready to order some more cabinets as the community is growing.
Mistissini police have brought up the issue of gun control and the laws to the Mistissini Band Council, but haven’t gone as far as asking the band to buy cabinets. “It’s very clear that responsibility for guns rests with the owners,” said Johnny Shecapio, an investigator with the Mistissini police.
In Wemindji, a week previous to the latest Mistissini incident, a minor picked up a gun and did a “walk-around.”
Wemindji police say this sort of thing isn’t common in their community and don’t see it as a big problem at this time. “It just happened, but it’s rare,” said a resident.
The gun laws in Canada say trigger locks must be on all guns and ammunition must be stored separately in a locked location.