Wemindji residents use their feet to fight substance abuse


Sometimes you just have to vote with your feet. On November 23, 2012, Wemindji did just that with “Enough is Enough”, a community walk that provided an opportunity for residents to express their heart-felt sentiments about the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Elementary and secondary students from the Maquatua Eeyou Schoo put on warm boots and, along with their teachers, headed to the Sports Complex where they were welcomed by Lieutenant Calvin Hester of the Wemindji detachment of the Eeyou Eenou Police Force, his deputies and special guest, the EEPD police mascot, who brought the children much laughter and delight.

Hester invited Pastor Randy de Carlo of the Wemindji Christian Fellowship to offer a moment of prayer before the community set out on a walk wove through the streets of Wemindji. Elders, grandparents and parents, health professionals from the clinic, Social Services and the Community Wellness Centre, workers from the Youth Centre, volunteers from the Fire Department, and daycare educators with their little charges wearing paper petitions pinned to tiny pink and blue snowsuits, as well as staffers from all over town voiced, with the steady crunch of snow beneath their feet, their feelings about drug and alcohol use.

Arriving at the Youth Centre an hour later, walkers were welcomed with sandwiches and cake and listened attentively as Hester spoke about a different reality that is possible for Wemindji. Hester celebrated the degree of intelligence, enthusiasm, talent and skill that exists in the community, a capacity that can grow stronger over time. He said we must guard against being dulled by cheap-thrill chemicals and alcohol, expensive drugs that take but never give. Hester said our excellent daily choices can make our dream come true.

Hester took the opportunity to thank his colleagues for their tireless work in the community. He said he was honoured and proud to work with such devoted individuals as Officers Bradley W. Georgekish, David Atsynia, Gregg Ratt, Melanie Jacobs and Patrick Masty.

Deputy Chief Dennis Georgekish made a plea to the youth to avoid adding to the hurt that already exists. Georgekish advised making smart choices and decisions to make the community and families proud. Georgekish thanked Hester for establishing the walk, which provides a respectful way, especially for children, to communicate their feelings to those they know and love who might be abusing alcohol or drugs – or selling them.

Alicia Kalmanovitch, a member of Quebec’s Youth Fusion, was particularly proud to watch Maquatua Eeyou School students (Grades 3 to 6) carry a six-foot banner that represented weeks of careful planning and construction. Kalmanovitch supports fledgling youth leaders in the community by establishing a variety of groups and clubs to engage students in learning. She said education is the best prevention. The proud sign, written in the Cree language, read “Let’s all put a STOP to Drugs and Alcohol.”

There is no event that does not yield a surprise and the “Enough is Enough” gathering at the Youth Centre was no exception. Out of the large crowd emerged a young Cree man from Alberta, resplendent in red bandana and shirt, sneakers and sweat pants, who gathered the children into a wide circle to produce a rhythmic musical sound to accompany his dance. Shayne Martell, a member of Youth Fusion, leapt into the centre of the circle and danced a strenuous hip-hop routine. Arms, legs and torso sweeping the floor, this dancer-come-gymnast performed so well that all music ceased even as little mouths formed open circles of “Wow”.  His dance over, Martell stood to his full height and asked a single question, “Could I have done that if I’d been drinking?”

The children were thrilled to answer with a loud and resounding “No!”