Pubdate: Mon, 20 Nov 2017
Source: Northern News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Northern News
Author: Emma Meldrum
Page: A2


The chief of Attawapiskat First Nation has solutions for the illegal
drug trade in his community - but he's coming up against "frustrating
" roadblocks.

Ignace Gull said Thursday that Attawapiskat is dealing with Canada
Post, the Northwest Company and the Ministry of Transport (which owns
the airport) to stop the flow of drugs.

"We're trying to do our own way of making sure that those drugs don't
flow through our community," said Gull. "One of the things that costs
us is with these prescriptions drugs, they're destroying young people,
destroying families."

One possible solution is a security screening machine.

"We have a machine sitting in Cochrane that was offered to us by the
Nishnawbe Aski Police, but we can't put it in the post office to
check, to screen the incoming mail, because Canada Post won't allow us
to do it, and the post office is in the Northwest Company's building.
"That's a big obstacle."

Even searches by the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service face challenges, as
warrants aren't always ready within the day, said Gull.

This month, the Mushkegowuk Council declared a state of emergency over
a "pandemic" caused by illegal drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs.

The council said in a Wednesday release that the illegal drug trade is
a major source of criminal activity and family difficulties and is a
contributing factor to many deaths in Mushkegowuk communities.

The state of emergency was declared Nov. 9, with a teleconference
between federal and provincial ministries taking place the next day.

That meeting identified immediate needs, such as resources for a
regional task force to address the pandemic, additional funding for
the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service's drug enforcement unit, airport
screening services and more healing and harm reduction services.

Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Jonathon Solomon said the illegal drug trade
is destroying people and communities.

"We acknowledge that we have been provided with some resources to
address various health and social related issues but the health and
social problems seem to persist," said Solomon. "We have exhausted all
our resources so we need the governments of Canada and Ontario to
respond to this state of emergency."

The release said that young children are being affected by drug
addiction, as they don't eat or sleep properly, don't have proper
clothing and their compromised mental health is affecting their
learning, social interactions and overall health.

The Council claims that the entire region is suffering, with no one
left unaffected.

"The existing programs and services are overwhelmed in trying to
provide support, they are underfunded and need emergency support to
implement more effective strategies to reduce the illegal drug trade
in our communities," stated the release.

Chief Gull said more resources are needed.

"As well, community programs and services have been trying their best
with what limited resources they have to combat this serious problem,"
he said. "We immediately need four additional police officers and four
additional mental wellness counsellors."

The council expects additional follow-up meetings between all
governments will continue until the emergency is brought under control.

Gull said deputy chiefs have been collaborating on developing a
regional Campaign Against Illegal Drugs and Alcohol since July 2017.

At that time, Solomon said security screening machines would be
installed to combat the flow of drugs. Rebecca Friday, deputy grand
chief of Mushkegowuk Council, said in July that a key solution is
providing help to addicts and abusers - not necessarily incarcerating

"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," said
Friday. "We want to help them, we need to provide them with more
healing services."

Gull agreed with that during his interview on Thursday.

"There are a lot of people that are addicted," he said.

"You can see what's happening to those people that are using it. It's
not going to help by incarcerating people, throwing them in jail. It's
not going to help. They need help, they need healing, some kind of

Gull said prescription drug issues have been an issue in Attawapiskat
for six years.

"You can't see them. They're hidden. The only way you can detect this
prescription drug is by doing screening, screening at the airport or
screening at the post office."

The chief said Canada Post is one of the biggest carriers of drugs,
and specialized people would be needed in Attawpiskat to read
screening machines if they could be installed.

A Canada Post spokeswoman said the organization is concerned by Gull's
statements, and is "prepared to work with the RCMP and other
organizations to help in any way."

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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MAP posted-by: Matt