Community in crisis: Eabametoong faces harsh reality
Sharon Johnston, left, wife of Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Ruth Ann Onley, wife of the Lt.-Gov. of Ontario David Onley, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy were in Eabametoong shortly after Chief Lewis Nate declared a state of emergency Oct. 22 following a rash of murders, arson, violence and animal mutilations in the commuity. Nate said at the crux of the problems is prescription drug abuse.
Violence, death, drug abuse and arson.
All these things overwhelmed Eabametoong (Fort Hope) First Nation culminating in Chief Lewis Nate declaring a state of emergency, Oct. 22, making it one of Wawatay’s top news stories of the year.
In the past year, Eabametoong has faced the murders of three community members, numerous cases of arson and several incidents of animal mutilation.
“The people of Eabametoong are committed to working together to do whatever is needed to bring safety and order back to our community,” Nate said.
“But we can’t do it alone. We are desperate for outside help.”
He said at the root of all the problems is prescription drug abuse, affecting the community in all areas of life.
The plea for help prompted support and visits from area chiefs and leaders, government officials, and the head of Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service.
The community also received funding to increase security and to repair the community’s school, which was damaged by a fire.
“This is short-term assistance to help us restore order in the community, but we also need necessary resources to provide long-term solutions to the larger issues, such as the drug epidemic that triggers much of the crime occurring in the First Nation,” Nate said.
Despite the overwhelming situation, the community has developed a seven-point action plan to follow in addressing the problems plaguing the First Nation of about 1,200 people.
The plan started with the declaration of a state of emergency.
The rest of the plan includes developing an emergency response plan, political advocacy and lobbying, long-term planning, improved communication between community leaders and members, ongoing monitoring and evaluation, and community development of strategies to build a brighter future for the community.
“We are not going to just sit back and wait for help. We need to get our community organized,” Nate said. “We know what the problems are, but what I am telling the people of Eabametoong First Nation today, is that we have to stop blaming each other and move forward. We need to be willing to work together and it has to come from the heart.”
With files from James Thom and Rick Garrick
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