Growing crystal meth use by Filipino community in Banff sparks concern

There are concerns in Alberta's Bow Valley that members of the Filipino community are using shabu — a slang name for crystal meth — to help them work longer hours.

Filipino community increasingly using shabu to help them work longer hours, authorities say

Investigators in the Philippines examine chemicals and lab equipment used to make the drug shabu. Here in Canada, it's known as crystal meth and is becoming a problem in the Bow Valley. (Pat Roque/AP)

There are concerns in Alberta's Bow Valley that members of the Filipino community are using shabu — a slang name for crystal meth — to help them work longer hours. 

"A few clients had reported knowledge of this being used, that it went by a different word than what we've heard before, and that they're facing different kinds of barriers in seeking help and support," said Meagan Stewart, coordinator of the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership. 

The organization has taken part in two community meetings with local employers, Alberta Health Services and the RCMP this year to discuss the use of shabu

"It seems to be … people in the community are trying to work multiple jobs and then trying to maintain the level of stamina in that work," RCMP Staff Sgt. Eneas said.

"Often times, from the discussions, they were working anywhere from 14-, 16 and 18-hour days in two or three jobs."

Sharing information

The meetings have been an opportunity for different organizations to share information about the drug. 

"It seems to be very underground," Eneas said. "We — the police — haven't had a lot of information come to light about it, but other service groups are hearing discussions about it … talking about specific shabu abuses."

Shabu use isn't common but it's important to get ahead of the issue before it grows, said Heather Bates with Community Connections, a group that welcomes newcomers to the Bow Valley. 

Bates attended both meetings about shabu.

Heather Bates, with Community Connection, said it's important to get ahead of the issue. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

"Our conversation has essentially been about what we as a collective community can do to support all community members," she said.

"How can we improve barriers that might exist for individuals accessing services? What do we as service providers and employees need to know to best support those in the community."

Use not widespread

Banff Filipino community member Ericson Dizon, who moved to Canada three and a half years ago, said he's surprised to hear that shabu is in the Bow Valley. 

"As of now, I'm still clueless," he said. "I haven't been exposed to it and I haven't heard about anyone using it."

Dizon, who works as a housekeeper at a hotel, added that drugs are not the answer. 

"If you're somebody who is a professional and the only reason you're going to take it is to catch up, you're not actually helping yourself. You're actually trying to destroy yourself," Dizon said.