“We just want the drugs out of our community,” says Saik’uz Elder Deborah Page. “There are so many people who are addicted to drugs, serious drugs like crystal meth, crack cocaine, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine’s, and it’s coming into our community. Some of our own people are selling it to our people, so we just want it to stop.
“We want a healthy community. We want our kids to grow up in a healthy community. So that’s why we are doing this. We’re doing it in front of the banks today because its welfare day for Saik’uz. People come and cash their welfare cheques at the bank and the drug dealers wait around here to collect. That’s why we’re doing it across from the banks.”
“I’m glad that the people are here today speaking out. I’m hopeful that the drug dealers will hear our message. I’m hopeful that people who are addicted to drugs will seek help. It’s all about loving our people and loving our children. It’s a loving message. It’s not ‘Let’s get rid of the drug dealers and put them in jail.’ No, that just makes things worse. It’s trying to get the message out. Not rejecting that part of our community.
“We are shining a light on it and saying ‘Let’s do better. Let’s create a better future for our children’.
“Drumming helps because it is part of our culture,” explains Deborah Page. “We are trying to promote our culture. Drumming is also used at our ceremonies. It’s a strong message. We’ve always used drumming for dancing and ceremonies. This is very much a part of their culture. So we are here to remind the drug dealers of their culture and encourage them to take a different role, to find another way of making a living.
“I know people say there are not enough jobs, and that’s true. People are unemployed and living in poverty. But there has to be a better way to make a living than selling drugs to your own people and causing so much pain. I know where their hearts are but they get caught up.”
“A lot of our people are on assistance because we have a high rate of unemployment. A single person gets $435 per month to live on and most of that, if they are addicted, goes to the drug dealer. And usually [the drug dealers] sit and they wait for them outside the bank waiting for people to come out after they cash their cheque.
The idea for this peaceful protest and promoting the First Nations culture happened at an Elders meeting. “We were working on a five year plan on how we are going to save our language, save our culture and how we are going to deal with drugs in our community, and this idea came up.
Very personal issue
It’s a very personal issue close to Deborah’s heart. “Young people are getting caught up in it. I lost my niece in Vancouver about five years ago. She was found dead in the downtown east side hotel. She was 19 years old. Less than a year later, her mom was found dead in a single occupancy hotel room. Before that, in 2008, my sister took my niece’s drugs and committed suicide. So it’s very much personal and I just want it to stop.
Hard time of year
“This is a very hard time of year for people. Christmas is hard because there’s the pressure to provide presents and people don’t have the money and yes its very much a hard time. It’s not a happy time for a lot of people.”