If you’re dealing drugs, get off our islands

  • Sep. 12, 2008 4:00 p.m.

submitted by Beryl Parke–Feelings of frustration, anger and grief from the trauma of a drug related incident that took place in the island community of Old Massett came through loudly at the Old Massett Village Church on Monday evening September 8. Fifty Haida citizens gathered together for an emergency meeting to discuss the incident of Saturday September 6, that took place at Kithlaagaa Gas Station in Old Massett. The meeting was organized by Arnie Bellis, Beryl Parke and Georgia Bennett.On September 6 in the early afternoon a young man of Haida-Squamish Nation ancestry came to the Kithlaagaa Gas Station and proceeded to act erratically. He pulled out the gas nozzle from pump and was threatening to blow up the Gas Bar. Diane Smith, the Gas Bar attendant indicated he made several attempts, but his lighter wouldn’t spark up. A series of events followed whereby Diane Smith attempted to de-escalate his erratic behavior and get him safely away from the gas pumps. As Diane was talking to him and trying to reason with him he continued to yell that no one was to phone the cops. She indicated to him to just leave and no one would phone the police. Diane reported she wanted only for him to be gone so no one would be hurt. All the while this young man was threatening to blow the gas bar up all she could repeatedly report is how worried she was for her community and safety of others. Diane indicated he appeared to be high on drugs. She further reported to those at the emergency meeting that people think she is the hero, but she said thankfully there were others present to help out. Her brother Dalbert Smith was working with her; as well several of the regular visitors to the gas bar were present (Stanley and Ada Swanson, Irene Pollard and Lily Amos). Diane indicated to her fellow community members that she attempted to stop the young man from following through on his threats, and at the same time her brother Dalbert was shutting down the gas pumps. Irene Pollard and Lily Amos got away from the gas bar, walked to the side road, took out their cell phone and phoned the dispatcher of the RCMP in Prince George. Diane indicated that she could hear them yelling to the dispatcher to hurry up and get the police down to the village as this young man was going to blow up the gas bar and those present. Despite her situation she held steadfast to talking this young man down and having him gone from the area.As she continued to talk to him another citizen was walking by and tried to assist her with the situation. Sadly, Noel White was hurt trying to help. He was struck with a rock, and those present to witness this indicate they could see the immediate swelling to his face and the damage done to him. From what they reported at the public meeting he appeared disorientated and walked away, only to be found at home sleepy and injured seriously. The reason he was found is Stanley Swanson who was at the gas bar sent help to him as they knew he was hurt. He was found at home quite “sleepy and bruised.” His relative Ross Samuels was home to keep an eye on him until he could be taken to the Masset Hospital for a check up and treatment for his injuries. His family reported to the community that Noel had to be flown to Vancouver for further check up as he had internal bleeding. After the agonizing and frightening series of events Diane Smith reported the young man left and staggered down the middle of the road. The police arrived almost half an hour later. The community present indicate that the male officer had trouble getting the young man under arrest and into the police vehicle and they had to assist. The victims at the gas bar were all present to report they are still shaken, suffering from the trauma, cannot eat or sleep properly and don’t feel safe in their own home or community. What came out at the meeting is, “Enough is Enough.”Robyn Brown a respected Elder and relative of Noel White indicated that “Enough is Enough.” We need to do something about this. His sentiments were echoed by all present. Solutions offered were to have citizens go directly to the dealers and let them know they have to move out, not just from the reserve, but from the Island. Everyone cited they do not want them just moved from this community and go up town to Masset, or to Port, Skidegate or Charlotte just to continue what they are doing, they must leave the Island. They are not welcome here until they demonstrate change. Wilson Brown who has actively been involved with the work to rid the Island of the drug problem indicated that he does not want to come to the Church for another reason, to bury someone because of the drug dealers and users in the area. Other comments offered were cut off their power and phone lines. Further to this is if you are using or selling drugs you aren’t playing basketball. Ken Edgars one of the Chiefs for the JaalthLaanas Clan indicated in the old ways from years past the Haida banished people like this. John T. Jones a council member for the Old Massett Village Council indicated that “We have to take this beyond talking.” He reported that his wife and him are still reeling emotionally from the loss of a loved one. They lost a nephew who was like a son to them and they suspect it was a result of his connection to drug dealers. John T reports that his family has been left with unanswered questions about how Jordan died and why he died. All they know is the local drug dealers are reported to have had some connection to their loved one.A significant statement made by a young woman present gave a clear message of other ways to include children and youth in this anti-drug campaign. She indicated she doesn’t normally speak out as she is shy and quiet, but she felt the community need to know why youth don’t come out. She said “Youth are afraid.” She said that not all youth use drugs, many say “No to drugs.” She reported a party she attended one night where a sole individual pulled out a bag of drugs and offered them around and all the youth present said “No.” She reported that this person felt so uncomfortable he left the party. She encouraged the community to bring their children to these meetings so they can hear what is happening. Encourage them to be part of the solution.Old Massett citizens came together, grieved the story of what took place Saturday September 6. All those present were provided with an update from Noel White’s family. His sisters, aunties, uncles and cousins wanted everyone to know he is okay and coming home. Noel will require further treatment, but his swelling needs to go down before this can happen. Sighs of relief could be heard in the church.The evening resulted in several actions the community is prepared to undertake to continue the momentum of change with further work to eradicate – rid the community of the drug problems. The first step will be to go to the court house on Wednesday when this young man has his appearance in front of the judge. The community members want to have their message heard by the judge and lawyers for the Crown.To build on the action items Beryl Parke the Coordinator for Healthy Communities Society and Elected representative for the Council of the Haida Nation indicated that the next steps will include a visit from Honorable Wally Opal the Attorney General and Minister for Multiculturalism. Ms Parke reported that a letter was sent to Wally Opal in June requesting he come to speak with the community about justice reform for Haida Gwaii. He wrote back on August 19 indicating he is prepared to come to Haida Gwaii to meet with the community to discuss changes to the justice system. Mr. Opal in his letter encouraged a dialogue with senior justice officials preparatory to his visit. He further wrote that Regional Provincial Director for Community Corrections Robert Watts is prepared to facilitate the meetings with people from local government. Arnie Bellis indicated this is when the MOU with the RCMP can be dealt with and the Justice Agreement with the Province.Those at this meeting indicated that we are all part of this Island and we all have to take responsibility for what is happening. This is not just a Haida problem, it is Island wide problem. If you are in leadership and want to begin collaborative talks to plan for Mr. Opal’s visit and plan with Robert Watt’s you can contact Beryl Parke or Arnie Bellis at the Council of Haida Nation offices. “Let’s work together to address the drug problem for our communities.” “Leadership needs to stand up and deal with this now” is the message that came out loud and clear at the end of this meeting.