The Cree residents of York Landing fear there will be lasting psychological effects from a police presence after droves of RCMP put the town under lockdown.
The RCMP were searching the town after receiving a credible tip of the sighting of Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, both suspects in a triple homicide.
However, having thoroughly combed the area, the police are packing up their drones and military planes, preparing to mostly evacuate.
“Everybody is still kind of overwhelmed and uneasy,” explained Leroy Constant, chief of York Factory First Nation, which resides in York Landing.
Before coming to the community, the RCMP were primarily concentrated in the town of Gillam, 90 kilometres away. Yet, a tip from the Bear Clan Patrol pushed the Mounties to rapidly establish a presence in York Landing.
500 people were put on lockdown.
Constant says there’s still a feeling of anxiety in the community and is asking therapists and counsellors be brought to the town.
The Grand Chief of a First Nations Manitoba advocacy group says he is already deploying personnel to the area. His organization often enters remote communities to help with the hearing process after suicides or family tragedies.
The advocacy group puts together sharing circles, counselling, therapy, and stress debriefing. It has already been to visit one community touched by the RCMP investigation.
“It was quite intense for the people there,” said the Grand Chief, adding that a small, closely bound groups, can suffer trauma from a large police and military occupancy.
“Most definitely, a community of that size was traumatized.”
Constant says he is looking at federal crisis services as well.
The Mounties are also worried about their own forces psychological well being. Long hours and stress, warrant some urgent rest.
“Fatigued, tired, overworked, [they will] need time away with their families, time to decompress,” said Brian Sauvé president of the National Police Federation, the union representing the RCMP.
Personnel are used to being deployed, but often to floods and fires.
“You’re obviously a little more vigilant because in a flood you’re not thinking that someone is going to shoot you.”
“That weighs on the exhaustion standpoint—exhaustion comes quicker— but as far as mass deployments it’s not unique.”