Community must unite to heal

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Many residents of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation are worried about what can only be described as a plague of crime in their community.

Since last January, that community has endured four murders, a rash of assaults and rampant drug crime.

While the RCMP has stated a number of recent arrests might calm things down, enforcement can only go so far. As many communities can attest, subduing crime for as long as certain people remain in jail is not a solution – it is merely a poorly applied bandage.

That is not to devalue the important work done by our men and women in law enforcement, but to state that more proactive measures need to be undertaken to ensure the safety of the Stoney Nakoda people.

In a recent interview with acting tribal administrator Ken Christensen, he said the leadership is looking at options to help combat problems instead of simply reacting to them.

The need for prevention and rehabilitation programs, namely in the form of a full addictions rehabilitation centre, were among the ideas presented.

A community addictions centre would be ideal as part of a multifaceted strategy to combat a drug problem that elders and nation residents told the Eagle is the cause for the increase in crime.

Close-to-home addictions programs are easier to access and allow people to maintain family and community support networks while they work toward healing.

Getting out from under an addiction is only the first step, however. A strong and vibrant community is needed to support residents’ efforts to stay clean and healthy. For youth, that is achieved through opportunities that keep young people active –from sport and recreation to arts and entertainment.

Recently, the Morley Community Centre received $150,000 to put toward its community centre for renovations. That money, if spent wisely, could go a long way toward making that facility a central hub for residents as a community building space. Initiating youth, elder and multigenerational programming would be a fantastic way to keep people busy in a healthy environment and build bonds between youth and elder mentors.

Bringing more employment opportunities to people will also go a long way to building people’s sense of identity and self-worth. It is for that reason the Labour Response Project is so encouraging.

Until more work can be done to increase job opportunities on the nation, the partnership between Stoney Nakoda First Nation and Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association will help get more people working. Not only is that great for individuals but also for youth looking for positive role models.

Eagle columnists Trent Fox and Warren Harbeck are also working with the University of Calgary to offer a Stoney language course that also incorporates elements of nation history in the curriculum. That program will bring more awareness and respect to the Stoney Nakoda people. It could also help rebuild a sense of Stoney Nakoda identity that had been degraded by past colonialism.

Fixing the issues on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation won’t be easy, nor is it as simple as a few more soccer teams and jobs. As Nation resident and substance abuse counsellor Myrna Kootenay told the Eagle, First Nations people struggle with mental health problems that stem from a near century of abuses inflicted by residential schools.

Only through striving to build a healthier community, rebuilding the Stoney Nakoda traditional identity and offering necessary mental health and addictions programs can these problems be solved.

The responsibility to achieve these goals lies with residents and leadership alike. A community can only heal when united.

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Cochrane Eagle