Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jul 2017
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Sun Media
Author: The Daily Press
Page: A1


New measures aimed at screening people who may be trying to smuggle in
illicit drugs.

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

"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

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.
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