Pubdate: Wed, 08 Feb 2006
Source: New West News Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 New West News Leader
Author: Michael Mcquillan
Bookmark: (Youth)


There are lots of parents in New Westminster who have a "My kid 
wouldn't do that" attitude and that's one of the reasons police and 
school district officials are organizing a public meeting this Tuesday.

New Westminster is becoming known as "party central" for youth aged 
12 to 18 and police are regularly breaking up gatherings that can 
number as many as 200. Most of the teens are either using alcohol or 
drugs like marijuana.

When police arrive at these gatherings they go into "triage" mode, 
said Sharon MacKay, the district's community school co-ordinator.

They assess which teens are so intoxicated that they require 
hospitalization and if others need to be driven home because they may 
endanger themselves.

"Because some are so drunk or high, police feel the need to take care 
of them, rather than just disperse the crowd," said MacKay.

What's even more puzzling is the reaction of parents to this, said 
Karen Janzen, the school-based prevention worker in the district.

"Often when the kids are brought home, the parents are like, 'Well, 
we used to do it, kids will be kids and kids will drink' kind of 
thing," said Janzen.

"That's obviously an issue. The impression I'm getting from a lot of 
kids is they say no one's really stopping them, 'So why should we 
stop?' Their parents don't like it but they're not stopping them."

The seminar for parents, entitled "My Child Wouldn't Do That," is 
this Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Glenbrook Middle School gymnasium.

One of the keynote speakers is Randy Miller, a former drug addict who 
spent 13 years on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, addicted to heroin, 
cocaine and other drugs. The New Westminster resident was a star 
athlete at New Westminster secondary school in the early 1970s.

"For me it was gradual," said Miller, 52. "Kids think they're 
bullet-proof and it won't happen to them. That's why I'm doing this. 
To educate them that it can happen to them."

Miller argues that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to others. 
When he smoked pot in high school it had a THC (tetrahydrocannabinol: 
the main active ingredient in marijuana) content of three per cent. 
Today's hydroponic marijuana has a THC content of 23 per cent.

"Especially if they have an addictive personality," said Miller. "It 
can be like eating candy. You just keep doing it until you're way into it."

In 1999 Miller's drug life on the Downtown Eastside was chronicled in 
the documentary Through a Blue Lens, made by members of the Vancouver 
Police Department. Soon after that he went into recovery and is now 
drug-free, working full time and educating children and youth about 
the dangers of drugs.

He doesn't like what he's hearing about the drug and alcohol-laced 
gatherings in New West. "It's up to the parents to be their kids' 
friends and talk to them about what they're up to."

The age of some of the teens involved in the gatherings shocks 
Janzen. Police have identified youth as young as 11 and 12 who are 
involved. And it's not just one or two beers that they're sipping at. 
Janzen has spoken with middle school students who tell her they 
consume a 26-ounce bottle of hard liquor like vodka.

Her student interviews also find these gatherings can involve sexual 
activity where young girls are trading sexual favours for drugs and 
alcohol. Once they get stoned or drunk, their level of intoxication 
also puts them at risk of further sexual exploitation.

"It seems like parents aren't responding or they're not getting it 
that it's their kids who are involved in this," said Janzen. Parents 
also tend to believe their child is using drugs and alcohol or 
involved in sexual activity because they're hanging out with the 
wrong kids. The truth is that those teens are just as involved as the 
others, she said.

"That's why we're doing this and drawing attention to what's really going on."

The seminar is free but pre-registration is required. To attend call 
604-517-6345 and register for course N88. Baby-sitting will be 
provided free of charge for those who need it.
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