Pubdate: Wed, 25 Aug 2004
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2004 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


The MLA tackling the downtown core's drug problem has received threats
to cease and desist.

Earlier this summer, Whitehorse Centre MLA Todd Hardy called a
constituency meeting for late July to talk about the riding's drug

Residents in the area, concerned about 24-hour traffic and used
needles stemming from nearby drug houses, had approached Hardy about
the problem.

"It was indicated to me maybe I shouldn't be involved in this," Hardy
said in an interview this morning of the threats he received before
the first meeting. "I took it to a certain degree as a threat."

While he declined to go into more detail, he's not surprised to be
getting threats.

"Any time you enter that world, you are often entering a world of
violence," the longtime social activist and politician said. "A lot of
people make a lot of money off drugs.

"I wasn't overly surprised -- I have some understanding of the nature
of drug use," said the Yukon NDP leader.

Approximately 100 residents, professionals and police officers showed
up July 28 to talk about the problem and hear how a Vancouver Downtown
Eastside Member of Parliament took on the issue in her

Hardy promised a second meeting. At the first one, two hours went by
with more people still keen to talk.

A second meeting is set for Sept. 8.

The violence, crime and threats that go along with drug selling and
use are a daily reality for downtown residents who live close to
houses where drugs are sold, said Hardy.

If the end result of the increased public interest in Whitehorse's
drug situation means addicts can get the help they need to kick their
addictions, "they you should do it -- not just do politics that are
nice," Hardy said.

The MLA himself lives a half-block from a home where one drug dealer
lost a finger to another dealer, who cut it off with a meat cleaver,
over a drug debt.

In that case, the injured man was first beaten with a baseball bat and
given cuts to the face with the cleaver before he was forced to spread
his fingers on a table.

As well, said Hardy, there have been violent deaths and overdoses in
the downtown area over the years directly related to the drug trade.

He's no hero, said Hardy, and he's just one of many people who face
the drug trade when they step out their front doors.

"People in my riding live with that threat daily," he said. "They feel
as much threat as I do.

"I can't with any clear conscience represent the residents of the
downtown riding and turn a blind eye to what's happening in the area."

Libby Davies, the MP who represents Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
residents, a poverty-stricken and drug-riddled neighbourhood, spoke at
the July 28 Whitehorse meeting about Vancouver's efforts to take on
the myriad aspects of addictions and their effects.

She'd been told by politicians of every stripe and level not to take
on the issue because it was personally dangerous and political
suicide, said Hardy.

Davies was at meetings where cops, business owners and drug users
screamed at each other, and at her, and threatened to ruin her career.

"She said it took years off her life," said Hardy. "I take my hat off
to her."

Davies was a crucial member of those who pushed the Four Pillar
approach, encompassing not only police enforcement, but education and
prevention, treatment and harm reduction.

The last pillar, which includes safe injection sites, has been
particularly contentious. Davies told Whitehorse residents some areas
are farther ahead than others, but real progress has been made in a
community with a problem that far outstrips that of Whitehorse.

At the end of the first drug forum last month, Hardy suggested a
rekindling of a Downtown Community Association.

A group called the Oldtown Coalition has started up in the past when
an issue arose that required a community group, but Hardy believes a
permanent association is needed. So far, two downtown residents are
taking on the start-up of that association.

While he hopes the upcoming meeting will start the work that needs to
be done in the downtown core, Hardy said he's intrigued by the Four
Pillar approach formally adopted by the City of Vancouver.

"I think there's something for us to build on."

Community members, landlords, business owners, community members, all
levels of government and non-governmental organizations need to be
involved, said Hardy, not just the police.

Simply raiding drug houses and arresting dealers doesn't solve the
problem, he said.

"That's not a solution. If it was, that would have been done a long
time ago ... but it's one part of the puzzle."

The Yukon RCMP's M-Division has also said that any plan to deal with
drug dealing, addictions and the crime committed by those desperate
for their fix needs a holistic approach, not just enforcement.

The Sept. 8 meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the Grace
Community Church, located at 801 Wheeler St.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin