Vigilantism a concern after N.B. teen’s death

CBC News

A small group of individuals are trying to keep the calm on the Esgenoopetitj First Nation as the northern community struggles to cope with the death of a local teenager.

A wake is now underway on the Esgenoopetitj First Nation for Hilary Bonnell, the 16-year-old whose body was found last week buried in a wooded area near Tracadie-Sheila after being missing for more than two months.

At the fisheries office on the Esgenoopetitj First Nation, which is commonly known as Burnt Church, Alvery Paul shows on a map the areas around the reserve where searches for Hilary Bonnell were carried out.

Paul is the co-ordinator of the Guardians for Burnt Church, a small group of about eight individuals who normally patrol the waters for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

But when Bonnell went missing, they began to patrol the land and helped co-ordinate an extensive ground search with members of the community.

The RCMP in the northeastern community are worried there could be violence or vigilantism as people try to come to terms with her death.

Anger boiled over late Friday night when someone tried to set fire to the house belonging to Hilary’s uncle, Christopher Bonnell.

It was the site of an extensive police search earlier in the investigation.

The fire was put out quickly but RCMP Insp. Roch Fortin said the incident has police worried.

So Paul said the guardians have adjusted their role from trying to keep the peace on the water to doing so on land.

"We still kept on doing the same thing what we done before, we just moved it into security to keep the area of Burnt Church secure, and have no violence or anything erupt or anything like that," Paul said.

"Keeping an eye on everybody down to the bay and up to the main highway."

Bonnell’s body was returned to the community on Tuesday and her wake is underway at the chief’s home.

The doors will be open for mourners until her funeral on Thursday.

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