Manitoba

'It's taken a toll': Medicine walk smudges West End streets in wake of meth crisis

Dozens took to the streets of downtown Winnipeg and the West End Sunday to bring awareness to the problems caused in the wake of the city's meth crisis.

Walks raise awareness of rise in meth use in Winnipeg's inner city

Dozens took part in the 2018 Medicine Walk, smudging as they made their way through the West End and Spence neighbourhood Sunday afternoon. (CBC)

Dozens took to the streets of downtown Winnipeg and the West End Sunday to bring awareness to the problems caused in the wake of the city's meth crisis.

The 2018 medicine walk made its way through the West End and Spence neighbourhoods Sunday afternoon with those taking part smudging the community as they walked.

"In our culture we believe that smudging helps clear out negative energy and we wanted to bring positive energy into our community and smudging is a big part of that," explained Kevin Settee, who helped organize the walk.

"We wanted to smudge our streets to let our community know that we care about our community and to let our family and friends know that we love them."

Kevin Settee helped organize the walk and says meth is having devastating effects on many in the neighbourhood. (CBC)

In February, Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth told reporters at a press conference the meth crisis in Winnipeg had gotten so bad it was keeping him awake at night.

At the press conference, police said they had already seized — in one month — nearly half of the total amount of meth they had confiscated in all of 2017, a year that saw officers take more than 12 kilograms off city streets.

In one day last week, Winnipeg police responded to four separate violent incidents they say were fuelled by meth.

Devastating effects

Settee says the spike in meth use is having devastating effects on many in the neighbourhood, not just users.

"It's difficult because sometimes we have family and friends that have been affected," he said.

"Sometimes we lose our families to the street, we lose people to jail because sometimes people do break-and-enters to steal stuff to help get their drugs."

It's something Darnell McKay knows all to well.

Darnell McKay says he's seen the problems meth is causing in his home community of Bloodvein River, Man. and Winnipeg. (CBC)

McKay, who is originally from Bloodvein River, Man. but is living in Point Douglas while going to school at the University of Winnipeg, says he's seen the problems meth is causing in his home community and here in the city too.

"I don't know anybody without somebody in their family who isn't on it," he told CBC News. "It's taken a toll on everybody."

McKay participated in the walk and spoke about his experiences afterwards.

"I want to express my support for the people who are high on crystal meth and other drugs, and show the unity that our people have, and that we still care for one another," he said.

The medicine walk was joined by another group calling for an end to crime in Central Park.

The Take Back Your Park walk was organized by Edward Hendrickson, who lives across from the downtown greenspace and says he's tired of seeing drug use and violence at the park.

Meth use is soaring in Winnipeg and police have already seized — in just one month — nearly half the total confiscated in all of 2017. 2:02

He says he isn't able to let his two young children play in the park.

"They might step on dirty needles," he said. "We live here, this is our park, this is our front yard.

"We want to look after it, we want it to be family orientated."