Manitoba

Former student tells school trustees more needs to be done to curb addiction

A Winnipeg School Division meeting took an emotional turn on Monday night as a former student spoke about his own experience with drugs and alcohol inside school hallways.

'It all started at school for me,' says 29-year-old Donald Comack

Donald Comack, 29, spoke to school trustees at a special board meeting about how his addiction started in school. (Jules Runne/CBC)

A Winnipeg School Division meeting took an emotional turn on Monday night as a former student spoke about his own experience with drugs and alcohol inside school hallways.

Donald Comack, 29, spoke to school trustees at a special board meeting about how he battled addiction since first encountering drugs in a Winnipeg high school.

"I've been through hell," Comack said.  

"I feel like I'm pretty intelligent and I wasted a lot of life, I wasted a lot of time doing drugs and alcohol. It all started at school for me."

He spoke about how in his experience there wasn't enough education around addictions in school or intervention when students were caught getting high.

Comack told the meeting about how that led to encounters with the law and depression that landed him in the psychiatric ward.

"Everything is looking up right now but I'm not going to be naive to think I have this nipped in the butt. It's going to be a lifelong challenge for me," he said.

With upcoming marijuana legalization, Comack said he believes it will become even more difficult to curb addictions in youth.

Trustee Mike Babinsky (left) stood up to thank Donald Comack for sharing his story about addiction. (Jules Runne/CBC)

The speech turned emotional when trustee Mike Babinsky stood up to thank Comack for sharing his story.

"Today you were heard. They heard you. They heard you," Babinsky said before shaking Comack's hand.

"Thank you for sharing today."

Babinsky's own son struggled with drugs. He died last year. 

"You did good," he told Comack, over and over. Some in the room had tears in their eyes.

Comack said he decided to speak at the meeting because there is a serious problem with drugs and alcohol in the city and its impacting children at a younger age. He said schools are place where students can learn about the dangers of addiction.

"I think that this city is plagued by drugs and alcohol and I think that we have drugs in our schools and I'd like them to do everything they can to rid our schools of drugs," he said after the meeting.  

However, he said he's not sure his message was heard by the trustees.

Trustee Sherri Rollins said the board room isn't always an intimate place to share such sensitive subjects but she appreciated Comack telling his story. 

Particularly when it comes to the legislation around legalization, Rollins said they share his concerns.

"We know that 15- to 30-year-olds are most likely to be smoking pot and so we have our eyes open on that," she said.

"So it was nice to hear from Donald and the board of trustees certainly appreciated his perspective."

with files from Erin Brohman

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