It was a pleasure to attend a march to support “Safe Communities for our Kids” in Garden Village.  Katherine Faith and I walked through the community and made a presentation to Chief and Council to bring support and awareness of a number of issues of concern.The group of twenty or so marchers were generally supportive of what Nipissing First Nation is doing to address youth issues, violence and drug abuse in our community.  During her talk, my cousin Glenna Beaucage (who organized the march) talked of her support for the Taking Back the Community committee which has been working since last fall to address these types of issues.  However, the message of the group was loud and clear: we need to see this given priority.

I attended the gathering simply to take photos as a favour to our Communications Unit.  However, when I seen the number of youth there — family and friends of myself and my daughter – I made the decision to take part in the march.

When I had a chance to speak to the Council, I spoke of the need to give these issues more of a priority.  There are some youth programs in our First Nation.  But if each department and each employee were to commit a full 10 percent of their work specifically towards youth, such a commitment would increase the focus on youth exponentially.

My second message was the need to give our police the tools to effectively protect our community.  They need laws and resources to be able to do this.  I suggested the need to enact a land law that states: “if a homeowner under a band housing program is found guilty of selling illicit drugs in that home, he/she would lose their home.”

I told Council there was a strong need to support our community in finding their identity.  The cause of much of the issues in our community is the lack of pride in being Anishinaabe.  Our people don’t know who we are.  We need to support integrated programs within our First Nation, not only iscolated “cultural programming” such as the Pow-Wow and workshops.  Language and culture need to be integrated into all facets of our lives in Nipissing.  Including our governance, our administration, our schools, our social programs and especially our homes.  Culture isn’t about those few who practice traditional ways.  Culture is about us all.

Toby McLeod and I suggested that the band should implement a Community Watch program.  There could be an organized “Watch” of parents/volunteers who walk the community each night for a few hours.  Nipissing First Nation could invest in flashlights, two-way radios, cell phones, street signs and perhaps even a Community Watch “Band Wagon” to drive from community to community.

Following the walk, Donna McLeod spoke to Glenna and I of a program she is working on with the Ministry of Correctional Services.  This community-based treatment program provides substance abuse counselling, treatment programs and support services to those persons who are either referred or are conditions of the court or the police.  Instead of offenders going to jail, they would be required to work within the community to deal with their addictions head-on.  We need these types of programs here in our community.  We wouldn’t be able to deal with the serious offences and severe cases of substance abuse treatment – but it would be visible and would provide our youth and our struggling men and women with another option to become well.

Outside the Council Chambers, the “Safe Communities for our Kids” marchers claim victory.

Nora McLeod was one of the youngest marchers and is learning to say “NO” at an early age.

Glenna Beaucage, who organized the march addresses Chief and Council.

Blair Beaucage, a leader among Nipissing First Nation youth shows his sign proudly in the Council Chambers.

Richard McLeod shows a strong message to passers-by in Garden Village.