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2014-06-27 at 14:20

Driving for awareness

By Leith Dunick,
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THUNDER BAY -- Drug and alcohol abuse cuts a swath across all of society.

It ruins lives, breaks up families and can lead to a life of crime. In the remoteness of Northern Ontario, the problems are exaggerated.

They particularly hit home in First Nations communities and young students who are sent to school far from the caring eyes of their mothers and fathers.

On Friday golfers gathered at Whitewater Golf Course to Raise Awareness Together, a charity tournament that’s helped raise more than $13,400 for the Dennis Franklin Cromarty Drug Treatment and Aftercare program.

Journalist Wab Kinew, host of CBC Television’s 8th Fire, was brought in to speak at the post-tournament dinner and said growing up in Northwestern Ontario he’s seen far too many of his friends drawn into the clutches of alcohol and drug addiction.

“It hits close to home,” the Winnipeg resident said, adding he’s got plenty of non-Native friends living in the suburbs of the Manitoba capital also fighting addiction to prescription medications.

“I recognize this is an issue that is acute in the First Nation community, but it reaches beyond and it’s something that cuts across all communities and all socio-economic groups.”

Though he knows he can’t be a role model when it comes to his golf swing, he’s hoping by lending his name to the tournament it will encourage people to get involved, learn more about the treatment program and more broadly, realize that society as a whole has to step in and fight what he termed a scourge in our communities.

“The way to do it is to lend a helping hand,” he said. “We can’t leave anyone behind. We have to make sure that we reach out and we don’t forget anybody.”

Tournament co-founder Travis Boissoneau agreed, saying awareness and keeping the conversation going. The problem isn’t going away.

“By bringing it to the forefront and bringing it to the public, it helps the public better understand that there is a concern, there is an issue and there is a vulnerable population that suffers from addictions. We can’t continue to let them fall through the cracks,” he said.

“We have to do things together, as a society, as a community and that’s not just a First Nation thing. It’s a community as a whole.”

The end goals are several.

First and foremost Boissoneau wants people suffering from addiction to know there are solutions out there.

“The other is for those who are in position to provide some form of direction, leadership or resources, can contribute to the overall health care. When you’re working with people suffering from addictions, it’s not just medication,” he said. “There has to be a community initiative, aftercare programming, cultural programming, religious programming, things that can help people get back on their feet.”



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