Vigilante Aklavik residents try to rid town of drug dealers

Jul 20, 2023

Police in the Northwest Territories have been warning residents not to take justice into their own hands after two incidents of residents pursuing and assaulting suspected drug dealers. On June 17, residents of Aklavik, N.W.T. organized anti-drug demonstrations outside of a suspected drug dealer’s home.

According to a statement released by Aklavik RCMP, it was “notified that several residents of the community had verbally confronted a group of three males, which they believed were involved in drug trafficking.” Moreover, the statement noted that the men ran into the woods and “shortly thereafter a package containing suspected cocaine was found and turned over to Aklavik RCMP for further investigation.” 

Furthermore, two videos shared on social media depict vehicles parked on the road outside of the house. The videos were widely shared, gathering many comments speaking out against drug use and trafficking in the region.

“Quit being afraid. If you see issues like this, get together, get the good people together, the people who are not afraid, do something,” said Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. resident Joe Nasogaluak in his interview with CBC News. “It is time we do something for our people in our communities. Because our forefathers did that. When there was something wrong in the community, they would get together and fix that.”

In its released statement, Aklavik RCMP also discouraged residents from taking the law into their own hands, while encouraging them to reach out with information about suspected criminal activity. “While this was an example of solidarity shown by the community, the RCMP encourages the public to engage the police, rather than to take matters into their own hands,” the statement reads.

Subsequently, on June 21, a group of Fort McPherson, N.W.T. residents assaulted two men suspected of drug trafficking and stealing a vehicle. According to the Fort McPherson RCMP, earlier that day, a truck was spotted that had been reported stolen, but it refused to stop and sped away. Several hours later, a group of local residents swarmed two men just outside the community and assaulted them, resulting in injuries.

Following investigations, RCMP recovered 43 bags of what is suspected to be crack cocaine and $2,230 in cash from the truck; Nuno De Sousa and Zachary Sullivan from British Columbia face several charges. The suspects are charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of proceeds obtained by crime, theft of a truck, dangerous operations, flight from a police officer, mischief over $5,000, and failure to comply.

“We understand the frustrations being voiced,” said RCMP officer Yannick Hamel in charge of the north district, the officer in charge of the RCMP’s north district in a released statement. “We know people in our communities want to feel safe. No one, however, can operate outside the law to confront those that are believed to be breaking it.”

Hammel added that police investigations are complex and can take time. “While the public may want faster outcomes, we cannot circumvent our responsibilities under the law.”