Islands leaders discuss social problems

  • Mar. 21, 2007 10:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret-Drug and alcohol abuse is a big problem here and our communities need to find ways to deal with it, islands leaders said when they met in Old Massett March 13.
The recent rash of break-ins in Masset is almost certainly being done by addicts who need quick money, RCMP Sgt. Jim Vardy told the protocol communities meeting. This is just one way in which an entire community can be affected by drug and alcohol addiction.
“People now are feeling unsafe in the villages of Masset and Old Massett,” Sgt. Vardy said. “The whole community has to get involved.”
Others at the table, which included representatives from Old Massett, Masset, Port Clements, Tow Hill and the Council of the Haida Nation, agreed.
“We need to make this a priority,” CHN vice-president Arnie Bellis said. “You know, our elders sleep in shifts because they’re afraid to sleep in their own homesÂ… The spousal abuse has tripled and that’s really disturbing. That is not how we want to be.”
The CHN has been asked to host meetings in Old Massett and Skidegate to talk about some of these social problems, he added.
Community leaders expressed a lot of concern about drug dealing, and the justice system.
Old Massett chief councillor Elizabeth Moore said there is often reluctance among community members to name drug dealers, or talk about the ways that drugs hurt people. Also, there are men living here who are homeless or addicted to crack, she said, and there are no programs to help them.
Mr. Bellis suggested that court should be held in Old Massett as well as at the big courthouse in Masset. All too often, he said, he hears young men talking about “going up to New Masset to face the man” when they go to court, instead of feeling shame and responsibility for crimes which were committed in Old Massett and affect members of their community.
Masset mayor Barry Pages invited all the leaders to attend the meeting he had called for Thursday night to talk about the break-ins and public safety, and said he was optimistic that residents would think of creative ways to tackle the problem.
The issue is not limited to Masset, he added, although Masset has been the focus of the recent crime wave.
“It’s not a one-community issue, it’s an islands issue,” he said. “We can’t keep ignoring thisÂ… We need to come up with some solutions before something bad happens.”
The north-end communities have started to tackle some of these kinds of issues by forming, with the help of the RCMP, a “crime prevention through social development” group, Sgt. Vardy said.
The group started up last year, and has been meeting once a month. They’ve already achieved success in getting MHTV and the local bars to stop liquor advertising on the community TV channel.
“They have collectively decided that substance abuse is the number one issue we need to work on in our community,” Sgt. Vardy said.

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