Rival drug traffickers’ turf war at M’Chigeeng leads to shooting death

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M’CHIGEENG FIRST NATION—Five persons have been arrested in connection with a fatal shooting that took place on Pine Street in M’Chigeeng First Nation on April 5. This is the second time in less than two months there has been a shooting in the community. Local residents say there is a turf war being played out between rival, southern Ontario drug gangs.

Just after 1:30 am on Tuesday, April 5, members of the UCCM Anishnaabe Police and the Manitoulin detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responded to a shooting at 60 Pine Street in M’Chigeeng. When officers arrived on scene, they located a male who had been shot and began life-saving measures. The male was transported to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

A vehicle had been observed earlier by a CanCom security team in the area of the shooting, one of whom relayed this information to the OPP communications centre. OPP officers were able to stop this vehicle in Little Current and arrest the five occupants, after having conducted a traffic stop in the area. The vehicle was stopped at the Blake Street intersection with the Gore Bay Highway evidently en route to flee the Island via the swing bridge.

Police say the victim and accused individuals are not from M’Chigeeng First Nation and that this is believed to be a targeted and isolated incident.

The UCCM Police crime unit, in conjunction with the Manitoulin OPP crime unit, the OPP Northeast region support team, the OPP Northeast region community street crime unit and the Northeast region forensic identification services are continuing this investigation under the direction of the OPP criminal investigation branch (CIB).

The OPP is appealing to anyone who may have observed suspicious activity related to this case to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122. Should you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or submit information online at ontariocrimestoppers.ca where you may be eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $2,000.

The murder in M’Chigeeng understandably has local residents concerned.

“I don’t know what to think,” one M’Chigeeng resident, who declined to be identified, told The Expositor. “This has got totally out of hand. These are people from off-Island who are coming here and causing all the problems. If someone knows about drug deals going down or they know someone that is involved in all of this, they need to tell our police service.”

“People are very afraid in the community,” continued the resident. “M’Chigeeng is made up of good, hardworking people. It’s this outside, off-Island element from southern Ontario that are selling drugs in the community and carrying firearms.”

“It wasn’t all that long ago that I felt pretty secure living here, I mean you never know in any community. But for the most part you could feel safe. I never used to lock the doors on my house, but I certainly do now. But again, it is not the local residents that are the problem, it is people from off-Island. Local people shouldn’t hide them (as has been alleged by police in relation to earlier incidents). They need to report that they are in the community.”

Another M’Chigeeng resident told The Expositor, “I just feel that all of this has to be coming to a head. It is so unfortunate. M’Chigeeng is known for so many good things, but we are getting to be known for drugs and shootings.”

“Yes, people are afraid in the community,” stated the M’Chigeeng resident. “Rightfully so. This is all about drugs and a turf war. It is about two southern Ontario gangs who are selling drugs in the community and they are having turf wars. My goodness… it’s crazy.”

“And it is people in Toronto or somewhere in southern Ontario that are making money off all the drugs they are selling, not only these drug runners who are coming to the community,” said the resident. “And as long as there is a demand and people are helping them, it is going to happen.”

“And the drug dealers are preying on vulnerable people,” added the M’Chigeeng citizen, clearly exasperated.  He said one vulnerable group that is being preyed on in the community is seniors, some of whom are still feeling the trauma of having been in the residential school system. “And there is a real lack of identification among young people especially, of who you are and what you stand for. When we were kids, we were proud of being from M’Chigeeng even though we were dealing with things like the loss of our language. This pride is still strong with our older members of the community, but not the youth,” the citizen observed

“Yes, there is a turf war going on, there are two groups from Toronto who are bringing the drugs into, and selling them in the community, and they are of the same cultural background,” said the resident.  “People are afraid to say anything.”

In an update to the M’Chigeeng community on April 5, Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige wrote, “this is to confirm that there was a shooting incident in the downtown area of M’Chigeeng on April 5. The incident was quickly responded to by the UCCM Anishinaabe Police Service and the OPP. (Five) males attended a residence in the downtown area of M’Chigeeng and one of the males shot and killed an individual at the residence. All individuals, including the deceased are all non-band members. The UCCM Anishinaabe Police acknowledges the work of CanCom Security whose information led to the apprehension and arrest of all suspects in a very short time. Gchi-miigwech to the UCCM Anishinaabe Police, CanCom Security and OPP.”

“The last shooting incident occurred on February 26, 2022. This means that it has only been 38 days since the last shooting, which also involved non-band members,” wrote Ogimaa-kwe Debassige. “On behalf of the council I am appealing to band members of M’Chigeeng to report suspicious behaviour and suspicious individuals within our community. If you know people are carrying guns, call it in. We can not lose a loved one to this violence. The more calls the police get, the more information they have to work with to help our community prevent these horrific violent acts. If you are afraid of retaliation, I urge you to speak to the UCCM police and express your fear; they will help you.”

“I ask you to think about our loved ones, our families, our children in the community, our Elders, our friends and our infants that are yet to be born—I ask you to think about our ancestors who have gone before us. Is that what we want of our community? Do we want the next shooting to be one of them? No, we don’t. We can stop this, but we can only do it together,” continued Ogimaa-kwe Debassige.

“The vision we see of our community is one that is well, one that is peaceful, one where we can support each other and love each other through the good times and the bad times. A community where our children and our Elders who have worked hard all their lives can live in peaceful, comfortable and safe homes. A community where we are not fighting or hurting one another. A community where we all help those who are in need, whether it’s a listening ear, a smile, a kind word, whether it is comforting people in their most challenging time. I think we all want that for our community.”

“The chief and council or the UCCM Police alone cannot stop these types of things that happen but as a community we can,” wrote Ogimaa-kwe Debassige. “We are urging members of our community to come forward and immediately report to the police any information that relates to any suspicious activity, drug activity and any suspicious persons that you see in our community. If you have knowledge of people with guns, please call the police. We need your help to do this. Without your help, these violent and horrific acts will continue.”

“We know that there are members of our community who know of this illegal activity. We understand that these violent individuals are preying on your vulnerabilities to use you to get what they want. They are using you to continue to hurt members of our community, our families and our friends. We want to remind you that there is a way out of these situations,” continued Ogimaa-kwe Debassige.

“If you are harbouring people with guns and selling drugs, then you are part of the problem that we are working at solving, which leads to the erosion of our community. Please think about what you are doing and how your choices may lead to the death of a loved one,” wrote Ogimaa-kwe Debassige.

“We as leadership continue to receive a lot of information from the membership on illegal and suspicious activity. We report this information and are very grateful for your bravery and courage to do this. However, within the judicial systems, the police need to hear directly from individuals to ensure that information is not third or fourth-hand information, which is not as effective (in securing convictions),” continued Ogimaa-kwe Debassige.

“We will continue to work with the UCCM Anishinaabe Police in advocating for additional police officers and specialized services. I will continue my advocacy to have officers dedicated to M’Chigeeng First Nation as I have been for quite some time.”