The events of this past weekend, where a shooting in one of our Island communities led to a ‘hold and secure’ order being imposed on residents, resulted in all Island communities being gripped in fear for hours. Police personnel from as far away Sudbury and the North Shore descended upon the Island to aid in the search for the individuals who were suspects in the incident.
The teamwork exhibited by the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Anishnaabe Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police was exemplary, as they quickly assessed the situation and mobilized to contain any threat to public safety which rapidly led to the arrest of the alleged suspects. But the example of cooperation between police forces can also stand as an example of what can be accomplished if communities work together.
The incident in question may have happened in one of the First Nation communities of Manitoulin, and although it has not been confirmed that drugs are implicated in the altercation that led to the police chase and arrests, it does appear that drugs were at the heart of the issue.
As the recently released ‘Manitoulin Drug Strategy’ report clearly indicates, none of our communities can consider themselves free from the scourge of illicit and addictive drugs, and by extension the violence that too often accompanies the black market in those substances. Illicit drugs are pervasive and are quite literally everywhere, in every single community and at all levels of society. This is a situation that could all too easily lead to despair and resignation—we must not fall into that trap.
Let us rather take a page from the workbook of the police services and come together over this situation that could very well have resulted in far greater tragedy than it did.
This is not a problem contained to one community, to one street or to one family. There are very few families that are not touched by the ongoing tragedy of drug addiction. It is not an issue that will be solved by playing the blame game, pointing fingers or isolating any one community. This is a problem we all share and the solution will only begin to be found when we all come together to face the issue head on as communities with common and urgent interest.
This is not a new problem. Any general perusal of the police reports of the past decade will clearly show that this has been an ongoing and pernicious challenge.
We cannot expect a challenge of this magnitude to be dealt with solely by the police, or even social agencies in whose domain these societal issues lie. Rather all of our communities, all of our agencies, all of our churches, community organizations and even individual efforts must rise to the challenge and start opening our hearts and minds to listen to those struggling with addiction issues, be it drugs or the even more pervasive issue of alcoholism.
This is certainly not to suggest that vigilantism or taking the law into one’s own hand, direct confrontation or drug dealers of their clients is where the solution lies. It is in tackling issues that lie at the foundation of the drug epidemic that our efforts should be focussed and those efforts should encompass all of our communities, working in concert to identify and reduce the conditions that lead someone into a life of drug addiction. There are many paths that lead down the road to drug addiction, and it is important to remember that not all of those paths involve recreational or illicit activities.
We must take action and we must take action together, our children cannot afford for us to be complacent, no matter who we are, where we live or what station in life we hold—none of us can consider ourselves immune.