Pubdate: Thu, 26 Feb 2009
Source: Aldergrove Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Central Fraser Valley Star Publishing Ltd.
Author: Rochelle Baker


A provincial conference to battle drugs, gangs and organized crime in
First Nations communities being held in Abbotsford this week couldn't
be more timely, says the chair of the task force organizing the event.

Dianne Garner, chair of the Drug Action Task Force and community
development worker with Xyolhemeylh Child and Family Services, said
the violence linked to the illegal drug trade and gangs impacts First
Nations and other communities alike.

"It's about building community. Gangs, drugs and violence effect
everyone; there are no borders," said Garner referring to the recent
wave of gang-related deaths and shootings in the Lower Mainland and
Fraser Valley.

"[The violence] is definitely out there, not only in the First Nation
communities, but all communities."

The two-day conference will bring together First Nations leaders, RCMP
gang experts, members from border enforcement, Corrections Canada and
municipal and provincial governments to share information and come up
with a tool kit of strategies to deal with the problem.

"Frontline workers in our communities have an overall knowledge of
drugs and gangs in our communities, but lets get an update and share
the information," said Garner.

Chiefs Sid Douglas, Willie Charlie and Stewart Phillip of the Cheam,
Chehalis and Lummi Nation of Washington State - leaders who have taken
a strong stand on drugs and crime in their communities - will share
their expertise, she added.

"[Participants] all have their own mandate, but we wanted to get
together and address the issues of education, treatment and
enforcement and create a unified vision."

Mayors or representatives from a variety of Fraser Valley
municipalities and school districts will be attending, and conference
goers will have the opportunity to share their views with provincial
politicians, said Garner.

"Everyone wants to connect with Aboriginal Minister Mike de Jong and
have the opportunity to voice their concerns and express themselves,"
said Garner who also underscored the importance of strong ties with
the RCMP and local government in combatting gang crime.

"One thing we've found is really important is partnering with the
municipalities, and we've had excellent support from all of them
because it affects them too."

The conference is taking place Wednesday and Thursday at the Ramada
Plaza and Conference Centre in Abbotsford. For more information call
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin