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Task force to look at alcohol, drug abuse



First Nations, local governments share ideas to foster understanding

A task force looking at drug and alcohol abuse in Pemberton and Mount Currie has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the National Crime Prevention Centre.

Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner announced the funding at last Saturday’s Community to Community Forum between local governments and neighbouring First Nations communities.

"Together we got the funding; individually we may not have been eligible," said Warner after the meeting.

"It’s something we want to do together."

The task force is made up of a broad spectrum of community members from both Mount Currie and Pemberton, among them the RCMP and health care workers. It was formed last May after a 15-year-old Mount Currie teen was murdered in the area known as "the jungle" near the Signal Hill Elementary School in Pemberton. Alcohol was a factor in his death.

The murder rocked the quiet life in both small communities. With the money, the task force will be able to develop an action plan in response to the problems.

Representatives from Whistler, Pemberton, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Mount Currie and the In-SHUCK-ch Nation were part of Saturday’s Community to Community Forum.

These meetings are designed to foster understanding and improve overall relations between local governments and neighbouring First Nations.

At the end of the day Warner also committed to working with Whistler and Mount Currie to establish a youth council for the younger members of those communities.

"The youth are the people that are going to be governing this place 10, 20 years down the road and I think it’s important that we have their input and see what direction they want us to take," she said.

"It can’t just be people in Pemberton. I think it has to be the whole area."

Warner said the youth council could meet two or three times a year and could add valuable input to local governments. It could be made up of high school students and college students and perhaps young married couples. The details have yet to be worked out. These youth councils could be a way of engaging a segment of the population that typically doesn’t have a strong voice when it comes to community affairs.

But there were some members at the forum who said the group should be discussing the so-called "big ticket" items as opposed to looking at the smaller things like youth councils.

"We don’t even have basic telephone services," said Gerard Peters, chief treaty negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation which is made up of three communities, Douglas, Skatin and Samahquam, along the Lillooet River between Upper Harrison Lake and Lillooet Lake.

He highlighted the situation for communities in the corridor saying that morning there was an ambulance call and it took emergency services two and a half hours to respond.

Peters also asked for treaty support from the members of the Community to Community Forum. He said the province can only accommodate half a dozen treaty negotiations at one time and he wants to ensure the In-SHUCK-ch Nation is in the next round of negotiations.

Many agreed that it was important to recognize the big things like treaty negotiation but also said there’s a lot of value in working through the smaller items.

"I think the sooner we can get that (treaty negotiation) resolved, the more prosperous we’ll all be," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

But he said the smaller things are important too to build the fabric between the communities.

At the close of Saturday’s meeting, local governments and the neighbouring First Nations communities agreed to get to know each other better through a series of presentations. Each group will present a history of their community so the groups can better understand where each are going in the future.

"Ultimately the purpose of these meetings is to get to know each other and each other’s challenges," said Maureen Douglas who facilitated the meeting.

"Ultimately it is about learning and creating relationships."

The latest Community to Community forum was funded in part by the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the provincial government through Pemberton’s Gateway designation.