Whitefish River implements zero tolerance drug trafficking policy

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BIRCH ISLAND – The Whitefish River First Nation band council has implemented a zero-tolerance policy in regards to illegal drug trafficking in the community.

While the Recorder was unable to reach Chief Shining Turtle prior to this week’s press deadline for comment, council declared a zero-tolerance policy for drug trafficking in a February 10 notice to the community.

The notice, signed by Chief Shining Turtle (Franklin Paibomsai) and council members reads, “Dear community members: We need to all stand together to meet the challenges of substance abuse in our communities head-on. To all of you who are suffering, we see you, we hear you. This situation is unacceptable and must end for the sake of us all, and our future. We are mad as hell that the drug crisis in our community has reached such a critical state during this pandemic and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to turn this mess around.”

“To the families who are struggling, we feel your deep pain, your anger and your anguish. With each life caught in the web of substance abuse, we lose not only a beautiful spirit, but a bright mind and the future leaders of our community. We see our families disintegrating under the strain of addictions, we see our community being torn apart by this devastating drug culture that has us in its sinister grip,” the letter continues.

“We don’t use the term sinister lightly,” the band council letter notes. “It is ugly out there. Don’t think for a minute that we don’t know what’s going on. Homes being turned intro drug houses. Human trafficking on the rise. Our young people sacrificed to the gods of addiction, money and greed. And the local dealers? Puppets of organized crime that has stretched its poison tendrils to our community. There is no free ride and everybody pays.”

“How did it come to this? In part, it has been our collective tolerance. It’s just a beer, we say, what harm can it do? Or it’s a just a bit of weed, where’s the harm in that? Make no mistake, it is that attitude of tolerance that has desensitized us to what’s really going on: the slippery slide into addiction and, far too often family disintegration,” the councils letter reads.

“Why are so many of our people losing their way? What is at the root of the spiral into substance abuse that disconnects people from their very spirits? We have to acknowledge that abuse, in its many forms, often lies underneath addiction. When you can’t cry out, when you have nowhere to turn and no one to trust, drugs can offer the illusion of relief. The secrets we hold are doing so much damage. The cost of those secrets is too high.”

“Even more paralyzing is the fear that keeps us silent, keeps us from speaking out against the drug culture in our community. We lock our doors and turn our head away from the ugliness,” the letter reads. “That attitude of see no evil, hear no evil, the complicity of silence is exactly what the drug dealers are counting on. They feed off our silence and laugh at our helplessness.”

The letter also adds, “to those drug dealers out there, know this: we are coming for you! We are declaring a zero tolerance policy for drug trafficking. Period. We are targeting crime because we want our community back. By building new partnerships, working closely with the UCCM Tribal Police, the medical community, emergency services, our education system and our elders, we will come at this problem from all angles.”

It was pointed out that various community partners including the UCCM Tribal Police, medical and emergency services, educators and elders plan to work together to implement policies to fight illegal drugs on the reserve.

Band council is also considering implementing a state of emergency to deal with the problems.