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Five people arrested following police raids on selected Millbrook cannabis shops

From SaltWire by Richard McKenzie June 4 2021

MILLBROOK, N.S. — Five people are facing a variety of drug-related charges following police raids at three unlicensed cannabis shops in Millbrook on Wednesday (June 2).

Although upwards of 10 such cannabis stores have been operating unhampered for some time on the First Nations reserve, an RCMP spokesperson said the shops targeted on Wednesday were selected because of their proximity to a residential area.

“The nearby public places usually frequented by young persons prompted the police action at these storefronts,” said Public Information officer Cpl. Lisa Croteau, in a news release on Thursday.

“Our goal is to have the unlicensed storefronts cease operations.”

One of the cannabis operations, located inside a converted steel storage container, was seized by police during the raid.

“The container was seized by police as offence-related property,” Croteau said.

Although questions were raised on social media following the raids as to whether the action had been undertaken at the direction of the band chief and council, Chief Bob Gloade said in online post to the community that was not the case.

“My only comment on this is that it was an action not previously known, let alone directed or ‘signed off’ by or directed by myself or Millbrook Frist Nation Council members,” Gloade said, in the open letter to the community.

Although Millbrook council has discussed and debated the economic development potential of cannabis in advance of its legalization 2018, the political cooperation required from the province to make that happen has not “materialized”, he said.

“Since that time, council has debated and discussed how to advance a cannabis strategy that is respectful of, and a benefit to, all community members, carried out in a way that prioritizes community sovereignty, safety, and well-being of everyone.”

Gloade said a survey conducted last year showed a majority of support for a Millbrook-led cannabis regime with rules around locations, safety, and other important issues.
“This is consistent with our inherent right to govern and our fiduciary duty to exercise jurisdiction over matters such as the community’s health and safety as a whole,” he said. “We continue to discuss the development of a cannabis regime and measures necessary for the Millbrook First Nation residents’ safety and enjoyment of life.” 

In response to social media concerns about the timing of the raids in relation to the recent news of 215 children’s burial sites discovered near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., Croteau said they were simply part of an ongoing investigation.
“The investigation was going on prior to, it (the search and arrests) just happened,” she said. “The timing had nothing to do with the events in Kamloops. The investigation had come to a point of doing the searches and arrests at that time.”

The five arrested individuals, who have not been publicly named, are charged with distribution of cannabis; possession for the purpose of distributing cannabis; unlawfully selling cannabis; unauthorized possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling it and sale of unstamped cannabis products.

Croteau said the investigation is ongoing, and additional charges are pending.

Healing dance

Young Millbrook resident Patience Sylliboy was so moved by the sequence of events, she took to her street to perform traditional dance.

“Tonight I danced for not only my community but the whole Indigenous community,” Patience said in a June 2 Facebook post. “It has been a tiring week, from the 215 bodies found at the Kamloops’ residential school to the raid that happened here tonight.”

Posting before Gloade’s public statement, Sylliboy talked about the importance of leadership and communication during difficult and confusing times.   

“Our community needs to come together instead of falling apart; we all need to be there for each other in such difficult times,” she wrote. “We need to focus on the more important things, like how we can help our residential school survivors in the time they need it the most. We need to get our community to be better than it ever was.”

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