Lewis Nate male newsmaker of the year
Eabametoong First Nation Chief Lewis Nate earned male newsmaker of the year honours for taking a stand against prescription drug abuse in his community.
For leading a proactive battle against the ills of prescription drug abuse, Eabametoong Chief Lewis Nate is Wawatay’s male newsmaker of the year for 2010.
Nate made headlines throughout the year, first speaking up about the steps necessary to curb the prescription drug problem and later in declaring a state of emergency in his community because of violence and other issues stemming from the same problem.
“We still have a lot of (prescription drugs) coming into our community,” Nate said in January, explaining the community has tried to stop the flow of prescription drugs by increasing searches at the airport. “They find ways to get the drugs through.”
He said the police do a good job of slowing the flow of drugs but more steps were necessary. He said traffickers are clever in finding ways to bypass searches.
Nate said the drug traffickers would pass their drug packages over the airport fence to accomplices whenever they knew there was a search in progress.
“We need money to put more people at the fence,” Nate said, especially when it’s “really hectic” when two aircraft arrive at the same time.
Nate estimated that about half of his community of 1,200 to 1,300 is currently abusing prescription drugs.
Things came to a head in October when Nate made the bold move to declare a state of emergency related to the rampant prescription drug abuse problem which prompted violence, a rash of arson and two cases of murder this year. The state of emergency was declared Oct. 22.
Two weeks later, Nate opened the community up to visitors including Sharon Johnston, wife of Gov. Gen. of Canada David Johnston, and Ruth Ann Onley, wife of the Lt.-Gov. of Ontario David Onley, along with national media representatives to see first-hand the issues Eabametoong was facing.
Rather than hide the problems, Nate tackled them in plain view.
Even at the risk of having the community’s story played in a negative light, Nate has steadfastly said it is important for the rest of Ontario and Canada to see the dangers of prescription drug abuse and the other ills of his community.
Nate was appreciative of the support his community received including funding for private security and necessary equipment since the state of emergency was declared.
The community has hosted its Matawa Tribal Council counterparts, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Chris Bentley and now-former NAPS Chief Robin Jones several times.
“Other Matawa First Nations leaders have immediately come to our community and have helped us create a larger voice,” Nate said. “This crisis is not exclusive to Eabametoong First Nation, it is a situation that many First Nations can face or have dealt with in the past.”
While Eabametoong was not alone in its crisis, Nate stood out as the man doing whatever it took to right the community.
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