Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief Dennis Pashe says in-depth discussions have been taking place with the Crown Attorney, RCMP, Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie, and the City of Portage la Prairie to combat drugs. He says one house demolition has already taken place with all legal requirements fulfilled, and it's all about community safety.
"Dealing with the drug issue, we feel it's not really just Dakota Tipi," says Pashe. "It's all of Manitoba that's affected. There's hardly any community or anybody that's not affected by the meth, the cocaine, and the drug issues that are going on. It'll impact generations of youth on-reserve and off-reserve."
Pashe explains the direction they've taken was recommended by their community elders. He notes the youth and other community members all agree that they want a safe and healthy community.
"We have a policy that protects community members against illegal and dangerous activity, and again, that's for the safety of all of us," continues Pashe. "We have empathy for those trapped in addiction and are offering supports to those in need. We have been trailblazing in harm reduction wellness for a number of years through the Health Centre. But it's gotten to the point where people don't want to listen, or go to the treatment programs, or they don't participate in the programs we have here. We have counselors here. We have education programs. We have money to send people to schools, and they don't want to go. They'd rather sell drugs."
He says the community needs trained carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, and other professional people. Pashe explains the opportunity is there.
"But some people just don't seem to want to take the courses, learn skills, or work in skills," notes Pashe. "They'd rather sell drugs to young people. People are in psychosis. It's dangerous. We have the 'James Smith' situation where nine people were killed. Well, that happens here. We have situations where homes are destroyed; brand new homes destroyed by people who are in psychosis. They're seeing demons and seeing things in their homes, even attacking people, and attacking the RCMP. It's not a standard that we want in our community. We want to move ahead in a progressive manner."
He says not all of their people are into those negative aspects, but there is enough of them that it's growing and affecting generations.
"Communities have the Liberal Party, NDP Party, and those in the Conservative Party," says Pashe. "On our reserve, we're going to have alcoholics, drug dealers, and meth addicts forming one party, and then they'll take over the whole governance of the community. That's a real possibility that could happen. And then what happens to those who are not users? Well, they'll be having a hard time in this life, and we're trying to make it better for people."
Following the demolition of one house, the Chief says they'll continue to meet the issue head-on. They are depending on their housing and drug policies, as well as their by-laws.
"We're exercising those whom we've trained for our First Nation Security Officers, and they have just as much arresting power, I think, as the police," continues Pashe. "The only problem is, we're not funded. We don't have any police cars. We don't have any equipment or anything like that, or operating costs. Yet, we have the highest negative statistics of our people being incarcerated or being killed. Especially in our First Nation community, the justice system's hands are up in the air. They don't know what to do with the meth crisis either."
Pashe says all of this means there's just going to have to be a good comprehensive strategy formulated. He says they've attempted to work with the previous MLA, Ian Wishart, in identifying the Manitoba Developmental Centre in Portage.
"Maybe we can convert it into a treatment program for meth, and have an effective program that will help people," explains Pashe. "But it seems to have stalled. We're optimistic, hoping that with the NDP government with Wab Kinew, that we'll have more cooperation in trying to set up treatment programs."
In the meantime, the chief assures everyone that they're going to do whatever is effective to fight the drug crisis and there may be curfews to have people confront their addictions.
"It's not normal. And there's a lot of self-harm, too," says Pashe. "They really hurt themselves in many ways, and they're not even aware that's what they're doing. We were one of the first reserves to have naloxone (a medication approved and designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose) given to a lot of homes, and the training in case there are overdoses; how to use them. But even that's not effective. We're trying different strategies and we're holding meetings to talk about how we deal with certain people that are just so addicted; they're so far gone. What do we do? And so, we're always meeting on a weekly or monthly basis trying to deal with, stop, and prevent drug abuses."
Pashe says the drugs bend people out of their right minds and they react in ways including arson, trying to light a fire, or similar. He notes such incidents could lead to a housefire, and cause deaths.
"We're very much meeting with the Child and Family Service agencies on-reserve and off-reserve," says Pashe, "We're meeting with the political organizations. I think there's a meeting scheduled with the Grand Chief and the Child Welfare Agency to try and come up with a plan and strategy to deal with drug abuse. To me, sometimes I think, it's not a hard thing. Somebody is supplying it. Somebody's bringing it in. I think the government needs to take more efforts in stopping that. Is it coming from China -- fentanyl? Is it coming from BC? We heard a lot of 'purple heroin' they're calling 'dillies' (hydromorphine), is coming from BC. They're bringing it into BC, and who's transporting it over here?"
He says he feels there should be a more improved strategy against the drugs by the federal government. Pashe says he recently heard about US President Biden meeting with the President of China, wanting to discuss ways to stop the traffic, and plan to work together to keep fentanyl from coming from China. He says he thinks more efforts like that are needed.
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