EDMONTON - Canada's Assembly of First Nations chief says "no more" after a five-year-old Hobbema, Alta., boy was shot and killed while he slept in his home.
Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo spoke out Tuesday at the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting in Moncton, NB., demanding an end to violence on Canadian reserves.
"We have to show the courage that is needed to say, 'No more,'" said Atleo. "We need the courage to say no matter what, we will protect our children and our families."
Ethan Yellowbird, grandson of Samson First Nation Chief Marvin Yellowbird, was hit by a stray bullet that was shot from outside his home early Monday on the Samson townsite about 100 km south of Edmonton.
Hobbema, home to about 15,000 people from four separate first nations bands, has been a hub of gang violence over the past few years. More than a dozen gangs battle for territory on the Alberta reserve, and often recruit members as young as 12 years old.
The province admits Yellowbird's death puts a dent in Hobbema's policing efforts.
"It's a real setback on what I see as some very positive progress over the last couple of years," said Solicitor General and Public Security Minister Frank Oberle.
Since 2005, police presence in Hobbema has more than doubled from 15 to 40 officers. In that time, more than seven deaths plagued the community, many of them gang related.
"Ultimately we'll only be successful if we engage the community. We've provided over $5-million in funding over the last few years for street level initiatives in that community," said Oberle.
The near-fatal shooting of two-year-old Asia Saddleback prompted the province to partner with Hobbema Chiefs and RCMP to launch a voluntary gun amnesty program in the summer of 2008. Residents were encouraged to turn in guns, no questions asked, during the four-month program, however only seven firearms were turned in.
"It's certainly deflating when we have situations like this where we lose a child," said Aboriginal Relations Minister Len Webber. "We have to keep these kids out of gangs basically by putting them in programs and educating them."
Earlier this month, the province announced nearly $400,000 for a three-year school based project aimed at keeping Hobbema youth ages 13 to16 away from drugs and gangs.
"There's certainly still more we can do and hope to do. It takes time and we are hoping that we can continue on," said Webber.