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Treatment on the land

Sarah Ferguson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 30, 2011

LLI GOLINE/NORMAN WELLS - Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya is calling for a mobile drug and alcohol treatment program that can be delivered on the land.

"It's a program which will save many lives," Yakeleya told News/North last week following his May 16 motion in the legislative assembly, where he made a case for immediate action.

He's advocating "the power of nature" to bring healing to those in the North who are struggling with drug and

alcohol addictions.

Yakeleya has not yet put an estimated cost on the program.

Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge of the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation in Fort Providence is in favour of the mobile addictions treatment program, but he cautions that the economics and logistics of how to use such a program in the communities needs to be stated clearly.

"Sustaining a mobile program might be a problem; there is nothing better than healing in a safe, quiet place on the land away from distractions when someone is dealing with their demons, but numbers need to be discussed; each (Northern) community has its own set of experts and its own value system,"

Bonnetrouge said. "It might be best for those communities who are potentially going to be involved with the program to get together and discuss how to go about it."

The recently released NWT Addictions Report indicates that addiction among youth between the ages of 15-24 years of age is becoming more prevalent in the territory, and that binge drinking is a growing concern in many Northern communities.

During the federal election campaign in April, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that funding a drug treatment centre in the NWT was a promise he could not make.

Yakeleya said the "traditional North American approach" to treating addiction - involving Western psychology and the separation of an afflicted person from his family - can only go so far when it comes to treating the disease of addiction.

"The land can heal a person, and help with (addiction) recovery. One of the biggest contributors to the drug and alcohol problem in the North is what happened during the residential school era of our history," Yakeleya said. "When we as a people were placed in the residential schools program, it broke families apart and took us away from the land. This program is a way to bring back the parts of ourselves that we lost.

"It (the program) is a holistic approach to healing, and will focus on (addictive) recovery by letting the afflicted person visit special areas of the land; hunting areas, areas where people go to pick berries and be with their families.

Addiction is a family disease, and being on the land together with their family can help an addicted person recover," he said." We are stronger when we are with our families, and we need to work together"

Yakeleya said the establishment of a mobile addiction program is not a new concept, and has been met with a high degree of success in the past.

"The first time we tried it, it was piloted in the 1980s, and it did well, so we just have to get back to basics and follow the recipe," he said.

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