Responding to the Sunday, July 3 shooting of two people at the Williams Lake Stampede trade fair area, First Nation leaders are calling for a definitive action plan from all levels of government and encouraging anyone with information about the incident to contact the RCMP.
“Enough is enough,” said Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars in an issued statement. “As a community we need to work together to take action and root out as many of these serious offenders as possible.”
Sellars said the “individual who carried out the attack, as well as the intended target, are both well known to the RCMP and WLFN Law Enforcement.”
Sellars also directed comments to people participating in criminal acts, saying if they need help and want to change their lives, the WLFN is there for them.
“If you’re suffering from some form of trauma or having difficulty making your way in the world, then we want to help. If, however, you choose to reject this offer of support and insist on continuing down a destructive path, we will do everything we can to see that you are locked up and put in a place where you can’t harm others.”
Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Joe Alphonse, Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) said the TNG is standing with the Williams Lake public, Tŝilhqot’in members, and all that have been affected by the shooting over the weekend.
“We encourage everyone to talk to their friends, family, or the supports that we have in place. Nobody should feel unsafe in their community,” Alphonse said. “This event has left many of our people traumatized and thinking about what could have happened. We are calling on anyone with information to speak with the RCMP.”
He thanked the Williams Lake Stampede organizers and staff, the RCMP and all first responders for effectively handling the “tragic” situation.
Williams Lake has a history of violent shootings but never has there been this level of violence in such a populated area, a TNG news release noted.
“The Williams Lake Stampede is an iconic annual event for the area with many Tsilhqot’in members riding in by horse and wagon, bikes and other modes of transportation to celebrate it. Many Tsilhqot’in members also compete at the Stampede.”
Nits’ilʔin Otis Guichon, Sr., Tŝideldel First Nation, TNG Tribal Vice-Chair said a shooting can be very triggering for everyone and encouraged people to reach out to family and friends.
“We need to feel safe to be safe,” he said.
Williams Lake First Nation will be hosting a sacred fire for affected individuals to gather, sing, drum, and pray in a safe space with cultural supports present, Tuesday July 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the WLFN Quigli Office courtyard. Dinner will be provided.
WLFN members needing help can call the WLFN health station directly at 250-296-3532 to book an appointment with a mental health counsellor. Non-WLFN members can access assistance through the Interior Health Crisis line at 1-888-353-2273.