Dakota Ojibway leaders meet to talk about growing drug crisis
State of emergency declared to bring attention to issue
Leaders from seven Manitoba First Nations met in Portage la Prairie Wednesday to work on a strategy to deal with a growing drug crisis that has led the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council to declare a state of emergency.
The leaders met with police and addictions experts, and hope declaring a state of emergency will move the federal and provincial governments to provide funding to be used, in part, to set up a treatment centre for community members struggling with addictions.
"We need resources at home, right in our seven communities," said Kenneth Chalmers, chair of the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council and chief of the Birdtail Sioux First Nation.
"When I see our grandmothers, who are on prescription drugs, handing them out, it's purveyed right through our communities now, from our grandmothers and grandfathers down.
Dakota Ojibway comprises the Birdtail Sioux, Dakota Tipi, Long Plain, Roseau River Anishinabe, Sandy Bay, Swan Lake and Waywayseecappo First Nations.
Chalmers said drugs including cocaine, crack cocaine, prescription drugs, fentanyl, and now methamphetamine are becoming a widespread problem in all seven communities.
"This generation that we have now hasn't been affected by what happened in the past — residential schools, the Sixties Scoop. We have a group of children now that weren't in those systems but it's carrying down from 150 years of colonialism," he said.
"We're seeing the effects right now in each community."
Joan Assiniboine from Long Plain First Nation said her 37-year-old daughter has been addicted to crack cocaine since the age of 11.
The 60-year-old said her daughter has stolen from her to feed her addiction and isn't the same person she knew before.
Assiniboine said she doesn't know if her daughter will ever change.
"It's very, very hard. It hurts me inside because there's not really much I can do to help her," she said. "I try to support her as much as I could but she still manages to sneak away to do what she does."
Robert Daniels, Dakota Ojibway's CEO, told CBC Tuesday the problems with drugs have led to an increase in crime — everything from break-ins to homicide — and mental health issues including suicide.
Rick Head, acting chief of the Dakota Ojibway Police Service, attended Wednesday's meeting and said the police force sees a need for additional officers to help deal with the trend toward harder drugs and the rise in crimes that trend brings.
"We're seeing more and more complicated drugs that are arising, and people are being hurt by it and people are dying," he said. "People are hooked on various types of drugs — whether it be alcohol, prescription drugs, or methamphetamine."
Head says he's glad the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council has declared a state of emergency.
"It certainly draws attention to the larger issue, which is the problem with drugs that we're seeing and with alcohol abuse and the impact that it's having, not just on crime, but on families."