Youth Substance abuse at crisis level: Yovanovich

Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin is seeking islands-wide support to tackle youth substance abuse.

Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin is seeking islands-wide support to tackle youth substance abuse.

Martin met with school board trustees to gain their backing of a program to bring early intervention and prevention to Haida Gwaii youth.

“The Village is looking at different ways of approaching the problem,” Martin told the board. “This isn’t a school or school district problem, this is a community problem.”

The Village of Queen Charlotte has been working on a bylaw after a public meeting which put a spotlight on the growing problem.

Skidegate Chief Councillor, Billy Yovanovich also asked the school board to support the village’s efforts.

“Anything we can do. The Skidegate Band Council is totally onside with [bringing] more awareness to the situation,” Yovanovich said.

Yovanovich pointed to the recent suicide of  a youth in his community as a poignant reason for the intervention and prevention program.

“ [It] feels like in our community we are in a crisis level,” he said.

“Recent tragic events have had a ripple effect. It is quite alarming at the rate things are happening. It seems like drugs and alcohol are quite a common denominator in all of this.”

Martin had previously brought up the issue at the 2015 Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention with the Minister of Education.

In a letter, Minister Mike Bernier told Martin that school district could submit a formal letter of request to the ministry for a one-time discretionary grant for funding to increase youth awareness and education on alcohol and drug use.

Board Trustee Wilson Brown said he has an issue with the one-time funding because this is an ongoing issue, but supported the idea of the program.

While Trustee Kim Goetzinger mentioned that there are other groups, as well as the district itself, already offering programs such as the one suggested but again had no objections to writing a formal letter requesting the promised funding.

Board trustees passed a motion unanimously to write the letter.

Wilson said that they would get a recommendation from the Ministry to what program that would work for Haida Gwaii.