The scourge of drugs infesting many of our communities knows no colour, and despite the recent reports of alleged visible minority drug dealers being evicted by an earnest group of vigilante grandmothers from a local First Nation, it must be remembered that the drug problem we are facing comes in all flavours—both imported and homegrown.
It would be a mistake to believe the target of the Wikwemikong grandmothers’ ire is race-based, or even xenophobic.
These concerned senior members of the community known as “The Grandmothers” have chosen to take action into their own hands because they are rightfully, and righteously, alarmed at a problem that seems to grow larger and more endemic in the community with each passing week. Whether one agrees with their vigilantism or not, the situation which has led to The Grandmothers’ actions is rooted in the community’s utter frustration with the apparent inability of both band council and the police service to effectively rid the community of the curse of drugs and drug dealing.
The apparent linking by the Wikwemikong chief of police, during a council meeting, of a member of a visible minority living in the community with a Toronto gang whose members were involved in a deadly shooting at the Eaton Centre, and the unconscionable spectre of a knife-wielding individual chasing a purported debtor into an elementary school may have served as a catalyst for The Grandmothers’ actions, but the problems go much deeper and are much more pervasive than their solutions of blockade and exile can resolve.
The ongoing drug problem in Manitoulin communities is not limited to reserve communities. It is not limited to families of low social-economic standing or limited to the members of any race, white, red, black or yellow.
Although the drugs devastating our communities are largely coming from places ‘away,’ the same could be said for almost any community in Canada, including much of those drugs to be found on the streets of Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver or Montreal. The drug problem is symptomatic of deeper causes that lie within our communities. Problems stem from a lack of inherent dignity and are indicative of a lack of hope for a better future and meaningful employment.
The solutions to these problems are not easy and will not be found simply in the removal of the symptoms. At the end of the day, placing more people in prison simply leads to more intricate drug distribution networks and exiling people from the community likely stems one stream of anti-social activities to the benefit of another that will takes it place.
There is hope to be found in the spirit of The Grandmothers. They point to the need for our communities to collectively cry out ‘enough’ and band together to provide the police and community leaders with the support and intelligence that they need to deal with the crisis, and to empower our healers to seek out new and creative ways to cut off this plague at its root.
It is not enough to lay the responsibility of dealing with the issue on our leaders and the police services, only to wash our hands of any further involvement. We must each and every one of us step up to our responsibility to the community—we must brave the cost of becoming engaged in finding a solution, for the cost of not doing anything is far too high for any of us to bear.