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LETTER: Where would we be if we had approved the Haldi Drug and Alcohol Recovery Centre?

BY MAYBELLINE JOHN

Prince George

Five years ago I was addicted to heroine and living on the streets of Prince George. Then my sister died of an overdose, she was just 41 years old. In her death I realized that I had a reason to live and started the difficult journey to get off the street.

If it wasn’t for agencies in Prince George, like the Native Health Society, Harmony House and the PG Native Friendship Centre, I might still be on the street today. They helped me get medical treatment to manage my addiction and social support so I could find affordable housing and create a safe home for my children. I have been sober for almost five years.

Last week Minister Sheila Malcolmson announced that the provincial government will invest $132 million over the next three years on treatment and recovery services across the province, and some of that funding will come to Prince George. This is good news.

Like Mayor Lyn Hall, I believe this could have a positive impact on our community. However, before we are too eager to congratulate ourselves for our effective advocacy strategies, I want to remember back to the Haldi Drug and Alcohol Recovery Centre. In 2015 funding was in place to open a residential-based healing centre for 30 women in an abandoned school on Haldi Road. The centre was a direct response to prevent Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and would help women like me.

Yet despite the fact that funding was in place, “NIMBYism” (Not In My BackYard) prevented the treatment centre from opening its doors. The neighbourhood was worried that their property value would suffer and the Haldi Drug and Alcohol Recovery Centre was permanently closed. The women’s recovery centre was replaced by a dog kennel.

The fentanyl crisis hit Prince George soon after the Haldi Drug and Alcohol Recovery Centre was shut down. I am frightened to think about how many deaths could have been prevented, if it weren’t for the fears of the Haldi neighbourhood. Dogs are housed better than our most vulnerable women. Let us not make the same mistake again. The obstruction of the Haldi Recovery Centre was an act of violence and this has resulted in unnecessary deaths of women and girls. Once again we have funding. I hope that that we can learn from the racism of the Haldi community and chose differently this time. Let us take up our role as a healing hub in the North.

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