THUNDER BAY – It has taken $400,000 and two years, but there is now a discussion going on about the drug strategy in our community. The report brought 35 groups together to present the first steps of the program to the community. You can read the report online for yourself at www.thunderbaydrugstrategy.ca.
Chairperson Rebecca Johnson states, “This report represents a lengthy process of dialogue and documentation. After obtaining a federal grant from the Health Canada drug Strategy Community Initiatives Fund, a community steering group was formed with members from a broad spectrum of the community including representatives from organizations who work with people affected by substance use”.
The report outlines what many observers have noted for a long time – “Thunder Bay struggles with higher than average rates of drinking, binge drinking, violent crime, and various chronic diseases and injuries, along with other social and medical problems. of recent concern is the rise in prescription opiate use by citizens in Thunder Bay, contributing to this city having one of the busiest needle exchange programs in the province, per capita”.
Over the two years since the group started, based on comments from many in the community the issue has shifted somewhat.
The report states, “According to Statistics Canada, the total number of police-reported drug offences in Thunder Bay was 355 in 2007. a large percentage of arrests was related to cannabis (254/355), followed by cocaine (54/355). Heroin accounted for only one arrest, and other drugs accounted for 46 out of the 355 offences.
“Law enforcement officials in Thunder Bay assert that possession and sale of marijuana and cocaine continue to be local trends in drug trafficking. However, opiate-based prescription drug trafficking is a growing concern. From April 2008 to March 2009, over 44,000 grams of prescription narcotics were seized in Thunder Bay. Prescription drug trafficking poses a particular challenge to law enforcement officials trying to contain the illicit use of a legal substance.Local police officials point out that illicit drug trafficking is correlated to violent crime (e.g. competition between rival dealers, robberies to obtain funds for purchases) and also to property crimes (e.g. break and enters).
“The arrest rate in Thunder Bay for intoxicated persons is 2,608 per 100,000, the highest in all of Ontario”.
The forty-eight page report is a “made in Thunder Bay” offering perspectives from within the community.
It is a start on a long journey, a journey that Thunder Bay must make in order to get a handle on the solutions that will make our community a better place.