Drug problem forces DOTC to declare state of emergency
From left, Chief Francine Meeches from Swan Lake First Nation, Chief Kenneth Chalmers Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Long Plains Chief Dennis Meeches, Sandy Bay First Nation Chief Lance Roulette, Chief Keith Pashe Dakota Tipi and out of the picture is Chief Craig Alexander Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation were unanimous in announcing DOTC needs help and is in a crisis. (Mickey Dumont/Postmedia Network)
The Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council (DOTC) has declared a state of emergency in its thus far losing fight against drugs in its communities.
By declaring a state of emergency DOTC is hoping to ultimately receive funding to open a cultural-based treatment centre in Portage la Prairie and receive needed funding for treatment.
The five member chiefs held a press conference Sept. 6 to collectively announce its 20,000 strong community is on the tipping point of losing its struggle against drugs.
Chief Kenneth Chalmers Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Chief Francine Meeches from Swan Lake First Nation, Long Plains Chief Dennis Meeches, Sandy Bay First Nation Chief Lance Roulette, Chief Keith Pashe Dakota Tipi and Chief Craig Alexander Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation were unanimous in announcing DOTC needs help and is in a crisis.
Chief Chalmers warned, “we’re finding everyone has been affected by this (drug problem) from our grandmothers and grandfathers and it’s at a scale that is getting larger and with our funding we just cannot keep up,” he said.
“Everyone in our communities is affected personally. One of my children, even. It’s hard and its sad and we keep asking ourselves, ‘what can we do?’ said Chief Meeches.
Chief Chalmers warned, “you’re going to have a load of disadvantaged people in the future that are going to be a burden in our communities and for society all around. We need to stop and do this now. That’s why we called a state of emergency.
The chief explained $3,000 is available for treating alcoholism, but $30,000 is needed each time DOTC needs to send someone for drug rehabilitation.
“We just don’t have the resources,” he said. “We’re asking for something that is going to help this tribal council - the oldest tribal council in Canada, the first tribal council in Canada so let’s be the first tribal council to deal with this drug problem that comes from outside.”
DOTC called upon provincial, federal and even municipal governments to become involved, “so we can somehow fix our children and what’s happening in our communities. It’s a horror story and it is going to get worse.”
Each chief has a story about those from the Indigenous community in jail, going before the courts, dead either through violence or substance abuse.
Many incidents of suicide, homicide, home invasions, break-ins, assaults, child neglect and prostitution either on band land or nearby towns and cities can be traced back to drugs, the chief said.
“It’s a viscious circle that has to be broken. Someone gets out of jail and comes back to the community and still likely has a problem. We have to able to help,” Chalmers said. “We seek to have the same quality of life as all Canadians.
Chief Francine Meeches from Swan Lake First Nation says the government “has a responsibility to our people.
“There are going to be critics about what we are doing here today. But those critics will never understand what it’s like to live in our communities.
“We do our best to provide for people in our communities. We do our best to do what we can. It’s not like we ever give up on anyone,” she said.
“Sometime we’re looked at as a person that shouldn’t even exist. We’re human. No we’re at the point where we have to battle something that was put upon us.”
The chiefs signed the declaration of a state of emergency during the afternoon press conference.