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article imageCanadian First Nation community declares State of Emergency Special

By KJ Mullins     Oct 22, 2010 in World
Fort Hope - Eabametoong First Nation (Fort Hope) has declared a State of Emergency today after a series of violent crimes has community residents in fear of their personal safety.
A prescription drug epidemic has turned this community into a dangerous war zone needing the government's help, leaders say.
The small Northern Canadian community of 1,200 is so remote that it can only be accessed by plane. The only jobs that are out there are from the school, the nurse's clinic and city services like the police and fire department. Unemployment is high and so is the overuse of drugs like Percocet and Oxycontin. With some of these pills costing $350 a piece those addicted beg, borrow and steal for their next high.
Those highs are costing the community more than just the criminal aspects. The younger population is acting out in a reaction to their situation.
This year there have been three homicides and several other violent incidents including mutilation of animals. More than 47 arsons have also taken place. Most terrifying for the community is that many of the perpetrators have been identified as the youngest members of the area, children and youth.
"The situation in our community has escalated out of control and is now so serious that many people sleep with a fire extinguisher beside them, fearful that their home could be set on fire next. No one should have to live like this, it's devastating. The people of Eabametoong are committed to working together to do whatever is needed to bring safety and order back to our community. But we can't do it alone; we are desperate for outside help," Chief Lewis Nate said in a press release today.
In a phone interview Chief Lewis Nate spoke of the struggles his small community faces.
"I don't want all the blame to be placed on our youth. They are simply reacting to what's happening in their community. The blame has to be placed on the epidemic of prescription drug abuse."
One of the arson attacks at the First Nation's school has left the local children with no learning facility. Other attacks by fire have seen local families in their beds asleep when the crimes take place.
"The arson at the school really hurt our community. They kids lost a lot of time from classes and the school lost equipment and books due to the smoke damage. There's no funding to replace what's lost."
Recently the community was without water for five days after a break-in at the water treatment facility at Eabametoong First Nation. Leaders in the community were forced to turn off the water because of concerns that there had been contamination.
"Most of the homes in the community use water and sewers so we had to fly in water during those five days. We couldn't take a chance that there was something in the water that could kill one of our residents. In the end the water tested safe but it took five days. That was a long five days. Most of the residents rely on the meager monies provided by Ontario Works. With all items being flown in that monthly cheque is stretched to the limits with the high cost of living."
In this small community where everything that residents need and use has to be flown in these events are devastating. At times it "makes it seem to hard to keep going on but we are a strong people and will bring our community back around."
One of the key issues is a lack of government training for the community when it comes to fighting drug addiction. While the need for a treatment centre is great the government says there is no money to make that need a reality. Chief Nate wanted it clear that his community wants to do the 'roll up the sleeves' hard work but they need both the expert training and the funding in order to make those steps.
"If we had the tools we could rebuild the community. We have to do this ourselves but we need help." Chief Nate added, "We have to take ownership of our community and will do so but we have to have the finicial means to battle the epidemic."
The funding that the community does have is having to be used to search the incoming planes for drugs, that is until the funds run out. Then the planes come and go without those much needed searches and the drugs pour in.
Chief Nate is asking all levels of government to help his community. They are in need of short-term support and resources to restore order. When asked if Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Ontario Premier McGuinty had been in contact with him Nate said that they had not. He has been in touch with the ridings MP who will be visiting the area on November 8. Chief Nate said that the MP had promised support but at this time it's only words.
"We want the leaders to come here and see what is happening first hand."
The leaders of First Nations have been in touch with Nate. They say that they will be helping but Nate added that they are lobbists and it takes time for that support.
"We want to help our community and will do the work ourselves but we need a hand up. There is no funding right now." Chief Nate added with conviction, "We will get back up."
More about First Nation, Violence, State emergency, Chief lewis nate
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