Eileen Pierre is getting a good night’s sleep now that the big gates controlling the comings and goings at Katzie First Nation are in place.
The barriers on all road access points were installed in September as a means of limiting access to residents only and controlling crime.
“It’s so quiet at night, whereas four and a half months ago, I would be woken up at all hours of the night, or I wouldn’t even sleep,” said Eileen.
“Now that the gates are here, it’s peaceful.”
Kids can now play in the streets or walk to their neighbours without being afraid, added her sister, Coleen Pierre.
The gates were part of a strategy to improve safety at the reserve located along the Fraser River, between Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.
That was coupled with regular patrols by concerned residents and visits to troublesome homes, where trouble makers, both indigenous and other, were told they’re no longer welcome. One home was even torn down after residents were evicted.
Before the gates were installed, anyone could, and did drive on to the reserve, often leading to late-night hijinks and screeching of tires and racing vehicles.
With three of the gates being manned 24 hours a day and the other two locked during the night, the gate keepers can decide who can get into the reserve, with a list of names and photos of the undesirables nearby for reference.
It takes a bit of diplomacy, and a bit of training so authority isn’t abused.
“We value our future generations, so you have to put your heart and minds into it,” Coleen said.
Theft and vandalism have also dropped, Coleen added.
She said the program expires in February and hopes the band council renews it, adding that it could become an election issue in the coming weeks.
“It’s going to be a hot topic come the election and we’re going to make sure it keeps going.”
However, keeping the program will be a community decision, not just a council one, she added.
People are paid for their shifts at the gates and backup help is just a few minutes away should someone not cooperate.
“There are some people who will … complain but we stand our ground,” says Eileen.
“A lot of the people thank us for being here.”