Mistissini has seen a steady rise in violent criminal acts over the last 10 years. Shootings are becoming commonplace in this bustling community of over 3,000 people.
As reported in The Nation last May, two local men Eric Meskino, and Clifford Joly, went on a shooting rampage that lasted a combined 15 hours, and resulted in over 130 rounds being unloaded in various buildings around the community. One volunteer firefighter was slightly injured as a result. Since then, there have been 13 other gun-related incidents in the community. These include suicide attempts, domestic disputes, and unlawful discharge of a firearm.
One of the big problems, according to Police Chief Calvin Blacksmith, is that perpetrators are treated leniently.
“I think that the police are doing the best job they can, but when the justice system chooses to put these people back into the community rather than keep them in jail, that causes increased stress for the police, knowing that they’ll have to deal with similar incidents from the same people in the near future,” said Blacksmith.
One thing that has been discussed in recent years is going back to the old way of doing things. When an individual does something to harm the community, some believe they should do as their forefathers did and banish that person from the community.
One of the largest problems in the community is alcohol. “Alcohol is the flame that ignites the anger inside of some people,” said Blacksmith. Some of the shooting incidents are a result of people who feel mistreated, get intoxicated, and then use their gun to try to get even with those who have hurt them.
A lot of the problems within the community stem from how kids are treated growing up, according to Dorothy Nicholls, the Vice Principal of Voyageur Memorial school. This translates into poor results in school.
“Some students have been in the same grade for two or three years. Out of 226 students, only 60 attend on a regular basis,” she said. “I think the students are frustrated with the curriculum and feel it’s not up to par at times. After awhile, all they see is failure, these are some of the things that we hope to correct in the near future.”
The frustration that these students feel tends to come out through bullying other kids. Workshops are now being given in all nine communities to properly deal with bullying.
There is also a lack of planned activities in the community for the youth. Hockey is thriving, but aside from that there is very little to do for those kids who aren’t interested in playing sports.
“It’s fine to say the police should make more arrests or be more strict, but I think the parents have to take a huge role in being responsible for the youth. I don’t think there’s enough supervision of the youth. That, coupled with being idle due to lack of activities sometimes leads to drugs and alcohol,” she said.
“Family members have to be responsible and work together. Leaving the responsibility solely to the police or to the school is not a good idea, it doesn’t work that way. They (the kids) are not being raised, they’re trying to raise themselves.”
Joe Neeposh runs the Reception Centre which serves as a home for youth that are in trouble with the law. He thinks that the community as a whole has to deal with these problems, and rely less on the police. “I think the public has to get together and discuss it at a general assembly,” he says. “It’s too big a problem for just the police to deal with, it 1 should be a community effort.”