ATTAWAPISKAT – Mushkegowuk leaders are calling for a regional strategy that would halt the flow of illegal drug into First Nation communities along the James Bay Coast.
“They say illegal #drugs and the abuse of prescription medication and alcohol “continues to be the leading cause of criminal activity, premature deaths, destruction of families and cause life-long hardship” within their communities.
“The communities and the whole region is in a crisis,” said Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon. “In some way or another, every community member is affected. The illegal drug and alcohol trade has taken over our communities. It’s a serious disease. It’s big dirty business being brought in our communities by criminals from the south. It’s killing us.”
In an effort to combat this problem, Solomon said they are introducing new security measures aimed at stopping drug mules from entering their communities.
“In the coming months, with the support from Mushkegowuk Council, Nishnawbe Aski Police Services and the First Nations, security screening machines will be installed in their respective communities to try and stop the flow of illicit drugs as much as possible,” said Solomon.
Late last week, the Mushkegowuk Grand Chief called an emergency meeting with the deputy chiefs of the Mushkegowuk First Nations, the Regional Coroner’s Office and Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS).
The purpose was to begin developing and implementing a regional strategy that aims to reduce the affects of the illegal drug and alcohol trade in the Mushkegowuk First Nations.
Chief Ignace Gull of Attawapiskat First Nation said, “There are children in our communities that want to eat but there is no food for them, they are not sleeping and many of them do not have clothing.
“It’s very sad, most of our children, elders and other community members are all victims of the drug trade and it is our responsibility as leaders to take action.”
At that emergency meeting, NAPS officers presented information on their drug enforcement unit and the challenges they encounter with the illegal drug trade.
“The bottom line with NAPS is that existing laws to combat this criminal problem needs to be changed and they need to be equipped with adequate resources to combat this community epidemic,” Mushkegowuk stated in a release.
Mushkegowuk Council’s Deputy Grand Chief Rebecca Friday said a key part of the solution is providing help to addicts and abusers. Incarceration, she added, isn’t necessarily going to solve the problem.
“Many of our people are in pain for some reason or another and resort to the use of illegal drugs and alcohol for coping skills,” she said. “These people know the effects of illegal drugs and they see their children and family suffering also. We need to work with the people that are involved with the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, we don’t want them to go to jail, we want to help them, we need to provide them with more healing services. We also acknowledge and commend the service providers that are there trying the help the people suffering from illegal drugs and alcohol but they too need more support.”
Mushkegowuk Council is a regional organization that represents the collective interests of the Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Chapleau Cree, Missanabie Cree, Moose Cree, Taykwa Tagamou and Attawapiskat First Nations in Northeastern Ontario.
Drugs and alcohol continue to plague communities across Canada. A wide range of measures are being tested to combat and prevent further damage. Some nations have implemented fees in oder to access the reserve while others are considering permanent bans for those caught and convicted of trafficking .