Last week, two NWT MLAs, Kevin Menicoche (Nahendeh) and Frederick Blake Jr. (Mackenzie Delta) missed committee meetings due to “excessive drinking”. Initially when I read about this I was outraged, but beyond that, I was disappointed. When I moved north, my grandfather was concerned that I would become jaded, his exact choice of word. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant at the time but after two years here, I understand. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the north. I mean, clearly. I write about it all the time, I want the rest of the world to be able to see us through webcams, and thinking about leaving Yellowknife just breaks my heart. But, you can’t have the sunshine without the rain, and in this case, the rain is alcohol.
It’s everywhere through the north, and it’s a problem so huge that no one knows what to do about it. I see it day to day, people on the street intoxicated at 10am. I see it at work, victims of severe frostbite from wandering outside in -30°C while drunk. Worse though is hearing the stories of the children. These kids in all the smaller communities deal with alcohol every day of their lives. If it’s not their parents dropping them off at a neighbours place and disappearing, it’s their friends parents, or their relatives. It’s a “drink until the money’s gone” mentality, and it’s a horrible vicious cycle. Most of these children don’t stand a chance.
It kills you to even think about, and so with this news of our MLAs missing meetings because they were too drunk to show up, most of us shake our heads, say “that’s terrible”, and then what? What can we do?
Well, leave it to the internet. A man named Ollie Williams, a volunteer in Fort Liard who works with youth, wrote an open letter to Menicoche that was so beautifully written and profound, I had to share it. He captures my feelings exactly: the hopelessness of these kids who looked up to these men and who are now disappointed by yet another irresponsible adult. Ollie writes about the impact this actions will have on future generations of kids, whose lives are surrounded and dictated by alcohol. Please read his letter, and please share it.