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Tulita rises up against alcohol-fueled violence
Cabinet ministers get an earful from community members at five-hour meeting

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 6, 2013

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya is feeling hopeful after a lengthy meeting in Tulita was held May 1 to address growing concerns about increased alcohol consumption and violence in the community.

"This is good news for us in a funny way because it brought people together," he said. "For me, it was good that people had the courage and the determination to say, 'We want to live in a good, peaceful community and we need to take ownership.'

"The people of the community really took responsibility and they're telling our government, 'You need to be here with us.'"

Roughly 40 people attended the public meeting in the Tulita hamlet office, which lasted more than five hours in order to give everyone who wished a chance to speak.

Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu and Justice Minister Glen Abernethy were in attendance, as were representatives of the RCMP and the Sahtu and territorial health departments.

"I think that people have every right to have their ministers come into the community when there's issues like this," said Yakeleya. "They need our help. So, they have the right to expect their government to be there to help them and not to come when there is only good news."

The main issues voiced by community members concerned the amount of liquor being brought into the community lately, and of increased violence.

On April 21, two Tulita residents were stabbed in a home, an incident that Yakeleya said helped wake community members up to the fact they need to deal with these issues.

"Everybody who talked, talked about the impacts of out-of-control drinking and the impacts it's having on our families and communities," he said.

There was also quite a bit of interest in discussing alcoholism as a disease, and how to combat the illness from a health perspective, he said.

People would like to see more on-the-land programs, said Yakeleya. That is an option Beaulieu said he supports.

"I agree with it, first of all, but I think it's complementary as well to residential treatment," Beaulieu told NWT News/North.

Several community members expressed frustration with the lack of progress since a similar meeting was held in the community last year, said Beaulieu.

"There were lots of comments about, 'You were here last year and nothing happened,'" he said.

While he disagrees with this sentiment, he does understand that people get frustrated when they fail to see concrete actions taken.

This is the first of a three-year action plan to combat alcoholism in the territory, said Beaulieu, adding

he will be publishing a report on the recommendations made during the minister's addictions forum, along with his response to the recommendations, during the legislative assembly's May-June session.

There are a few visible actions being taken to combat violence and alcoholism in the Sahtu, said Yakeleya.

The Department of Justice has committed to bringing a third RCMP officer to

Tulita as soon as housing can be secured. Also, the community can look forward to having a victim services worker in Tulita, said Yakeleya.

Abernethy was unavailable for comment by press deadline.

Residents of Colville Lake, who have also been dealing with increased bootlegging, can look forward to having a community wellness worker, Beaulieu said.

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