No alcohol allowed: Teens lead the fight against alcoholism in Saskatchewan | Sober House

No alcohol allowed: Teens lead the fight against alcoholism in Saskatchewan | Sober House


We’re just a group of teenagers
from a high school. We never thought
we were going to get this far. Ayla: We got this.
This is going places. This is going to do something.
It’s going to make a change. Paywapin:
Like, we tell our stories, and they listen
and they think about it. Who knows?
They might stop drinking. Camryn:
People had questions about what if it creates places
that aren’t safe. But what if it can create places
that make everything better? You guys
nervous now? I’m nervous now. No. What about you,
Ayla? What? You nervous?
You are? Yeah. Don’t be. Well, be a little bit,
but not all the way. Hello, ladies and gentlemen. It being 5:00, I’m going to call
the meeting to order. And I’ll ask everyone
to rise, and the city clerk
to say the prayer. Mayor Dionne: Number eight,
delegations 9.8. “Request support
for Sober House Project. Verbal presentation,
Wesmor students.” So, I’ll ask who’s ever
going to start speaking, go to the podium and
identify yourself, please. Mayor, city councillors, thank you for your time
this evening. We would like to begin by
acknowledging that Prince Albert is situated
on Treaty Six territory and the homeland of the Métis. (exhaling sharply) We are a group of youth
supported by adult allies from Prince Albert who have
a vision of a brighter future: a future
where sobriety is the norm. My name is Linden Howlett,
and I am 17 years old and I go to school at Wesmor. I had some trouble growing up, and one of the things that
I used as a coping mechanism
was alcohol. I thought that it was
the best thing in the world. I started drinking alcohol
at age 11. I don’t want people to go
through what I did with alcohol. My name is Camryn. I am a SADD Council member
and a student at Wesmor. I have lived in Prince Albert
all of my life. I have seen what alcohol can do
to a beautiful city. When I was younger,
I remember how scary it would be to be with an adult
who was drinking. I have a grandma
who was my safe place. Everyone should have
a safe place like I did. I used to go and visit my dad. They would be drinking or
they would already have drank, and I didn’t like
being around them, so I’d go and visit
with my grandma. She was my safe person
and place. Whenever something I didn’t like
at the house was there, I’d go and sit with my grandma,
play guitar, watch her play bingo
on her computer and just talk. But a lot of people
are afraid that if they go out after dark
they’re going to get hurt. We’re trying to
take Prince Albert back. Canada does not consider access
to clean drinking water a human right; yet access to alcohol
is considered a human right. I want to be in a sober house, ’cause it’s more fun that way
instead of being intoxicated. ‘Cause sometimes,
it can lead to bad stuff. Hi there. My name is Ayla,
and I am a proud member of SADD. I haven’t been affected
by alcohol other than the fear of
under-the-influence drivers killing my friends and family. Tricia Lucyshyn:
Wesmor Public High School has around 90% First Nation
and Métis students. Prince Albert has potential. It is. It’s got
very, very beautiful things, but I know that it is
a city that is hurting, and it’s hurting
because of alcohol. The city needs hope. We all need hope. And when you hear our youth
speak in such a manner that they care about their community,
they care about themselves, their families, everyone,
their peers, and when it comes from our children and our youth,
that is very uplifting. You speak and then step aside, so the next person
can go and speak. We are a group of youth
supported by adult allies from Prince Albert who have a vision
of a brighter future: a future
where sobriety is the norm. We are calling our vision
the Sober House Project. So, we want our audience
to sit around here, and we’re going to practise
our presentation over here. We’re going to practise it just
like it will be at City Hall. In Indigenous culture,
it’s not acceptable to speak out and tell
anybody else what to do. I’ve personally been affected
by the impact of alcohol abuse. I grew up with alcohol
in my home. The drinking
caused fighting in my home. I faced abuse and many problems. This caused me
to turn to alcohol at age 11. Tracy: There’s a lot of
kids that start drinking at a very early age: nine, 10, 11.
Alcohol is there. And it’s very normalized.
Everyone drinks. It’s quite normal to drink
at 11. Northern youth have issued
a call to action to address drugs and alcohol
in our communities. Harold R. Johnson addresses
the same issues in his book. Johnson estimates that
in northern Saskatchewan, 50% of all deaths
are alcohol-related. He asks if
we are tired of dying. We are answering, “Yes.” Harold Johnson
is a Saskatchewan author of Firewater: How Alcohol Is
Killing Our People and Yours. A year ago, I brought that book
into my classroom as a class study, and it brought out
a lot of student stories. It empowered students
to speak up. Tracy:
I contacted Harold and I said, “I love your idea
of the Sober House Project. Do you mind if I…
can I do something with it?” And he said, “Absolutely.” He said, “It’s my idea. I put it out in the world
so that something might happen.” So, when I introduced the idea
of the Sober House Project to the kids, they ran with it. The idea is a simple one
inspired by Harold R. Johnson. If you are a person
who lives a sober life, you put a sign on your door
or in your window declaring your home
to be a sober house. The sober house sign
means that alcohol is not welcome
in your home, and neither are
intoxicated people. I think the Sober House Project
is so important, because we need
that next step of treatment. Without that step
and that continual support, you’re just going to go back to
the old ways that you had. I think the Sober House Project will create a lot more
safe places and safe people. All right, everybody. Before we break for lunch
I just want to say great job, everybody, and
thank you for being here today. You guys are awesome! (cheering and applause) So, I just wanted to show you
this. I got this in an email. So, I just wanted you
to watch this message, please. Hey, you guys. Sorry I couldn’t be in Prince
Albert to be with you as you guys go through this.
I got caught in Toronto. You’re doing something
that takes a lot of courage. You’re taking on an industry and a culture and a story
that’s been ingrained for hundreds of years
before you got here. And it’s a very powerful story that has been damaging
our people since it arrived here. You make me very proud. I’d tell you I’d give you
advice on how to proceed and where to get strength from, but watching
what you guys have done, you’ve already
figured this out. You got this. Thank you. Tracy: These kids believe
that they are the Seventh Fire. This is the generation
that has felt the pain like no other generation. And we can see that with the
youth suicides and the crisis that we have in northern
Saskatchewan and everywhere. So, they believe that
they are the generation that will wake up, and that they’re not going to
look to others for rescue. Ayla:
I actually am very surprised that we’re able to perform our presentation
in front of the city council and the mayor.
I’m very surprised about that. We’re serious about the project, so I do think
that we can make a change even though we’re teenagers. Camryn:
Yes. Let’s get this going. We need this in Prince Albert. I wish more kids had a
safe place like I did, so that they wouldn’t get into
drinking and doing drugs like a lot of them
probably have. This one is Sid.
He’s our first rescue. We got him
just about a year ago. It’s almost his adoption
anniversary. This is Loki. This is Grace. I’ve seen what alcohol
does to our community here, and I want to see it
become better in our community than it was,
than it used to be. They can probably rescue
Prince Albert, and it could probably help bring back
everything that we used to have. I hope that I can change
some minds tomorrow. Linden: Which way are we going? Linden: You just need to be a
little bit nervous, because that little bit of nerve will push us
to do great things, right? So, no matter what–
You know how people say, “Don’t be nervous.
You don’t need to be”? Be a little bit nervous, because that nerves
pushes you to do it perfectly. Oh, yeah. All of us. Even I’m going to be a little
bit nervous when I’m up there. Mayor Dionne: Number eight,
delegations 9.8. “Request support
for Sober House Project. Verbal presentation,
Wesmor students.” (exhaling sharply) I’ve personally been affected
by the impact of alcohol abuse. I grew up with alcohol
in my home. The drinking
caused fighting in my home. I faced abuse
and had many problems. This caused me
to turn to alcohol at age 11. I believe kids who are exposed
to alcohol and violence at an early age will grow up to think
that it is normal to drink and suffer from
the effects of alcohol. If we can stop
the normalization of alcohol, if we can create a community where we support each other
in living healthy lives, future generations
will not have to suffer. Tricia: With those kids,
I have taught them in my class, so I know
where they’re coming from because that was my youth. But then,
you hear some of the stories and it makes you so angry. (sighing) The project
was inspired by an idea presented by Harold R. Johnson in his national bestselling book
Firewater. The lack of healthy adults
for role models mean that alcohol abuse
is normalized, and youth are left on their own
too much and often begin drinking
themselves at an early age. Harold R. Johnson addresses
the same issues in his book. Johnson estimates
that in northern Saskatchewan, half of all deaths
are alcohol-related. He asks if we are tired of dying and we are answering, “Yes.” Treaty Six states, “Her Majesty further agrees
with her said Indians that, “within the boundary
of Indian reserves, “until otherwise determined
by her government “of the Dominion of Canada,
no intoxicating liquor shall be allowed
to be introduced or sold.” Then, in 1969,
this part of the treaty was declared in violation
of human rights. And so, alcohol was allowed
on reserves. Canada does not consider
access to clean drinking water a human right; yet access to alcohol
is considered a human right. The idea is a simple one. If you are a person
who lives a sober life, you put a sign on your door or in your window declaring
your home to be a sober house. It is time for change. And, so, mayor, city
councillors, we are asking today for verbal and written support of city council
for the Sober House Project. I would like to move that
the City of Prince Albert provide a written message
of support to the Sober House Project. I’ll second. Mayor Dionne: Okay.
And ready for the vote? Camryn: I want to be able to see
Sober House signs all over Prince Albert,
and all of the people being able
to go places and feel better and not be stuck with
friends and family that only drink
and only want them to drink. If city council doesn’t help,
we just continue on from there. We push it on our own. Because if they can’t help us, we can’t say
we can’t help ourselves. We have to still take it
as far as we can. See you later,
cousin. Yeah.
Peace out, cousin. Have a good night. Yeah.
You, too. We need to start the change
in our communities, and we’ve all seen the effect
in our communities. Ayla: You wouldn’t just
walk down the street and think, well, I bet you they drink,
and they probably drink and they probably drink, too. You wouldn’t believe that ’cause
you’d see Sober House signs. Mayor Dionne: Okay.
And ready for the vote? All in favour? Passes unanimously.
Thank you. (applauding) And I’d be pleased to have
one of your signs. I don’t drink, so it’s easy
for me to put it on my house. And I’ll come down to the front
and accept your package. Sober House sign
you wanted. Right. And a copy of
our Sober House package. Thank you very much,
and congratulations. Thank you. Excellent job
speaking. Thank you. You don’t sound shy at all, Pay. Congratulations. Great job. Excellent
job. Camryn, well done. Thank you
very much. Thank you
for being here. Good job, Linden.
Nice job, Ayla. Ayla: Thank you. I was extremely nervous. My face is warm,
but I feel great. It was amazing. It felt really great
that they support us and they believe in us, too. I would say watching the words
go across while she was typing was
the most amazing thing to me. Just seeing that
not only were we pushed to get the written support
of city council, we were seconded
almost immediately. When I saw the hands go up
and I saw that everybody put their hands up,
it was amazing ’cause the hands went up
almost instantly. All of them
at the same time. So, just to know
how much support we have and to know that
they’re going to back us. And it just
feels awesome to have the support of just
the city council on our side. We did it, cousin. Woo! Finally. We did it! (indistinct chattering) (laughing) All right. So, um,
Mr. Bergen came up to me after, and he said that he was talking to one of his friends who’s
a councillor, and he said that you guys did
the best presentation by far. Like, ever. Like, even the councillors
don’t present that well. Really? Tricia: Really.
So, nice job. (everyone applauding) Yeah.
He was so impressed. The only time I got nervous was
as soon as I was up at that podium,
I was, like, looking at him. Me and the mayor
made direct eye contact and then,
there goes my composition. (laughing) Camryn: We’re trying to get the
Sober House Project out there, so more kids can feel safe and more adults can get better. ‘Cause it’s not on fighting the
old; it’s on building the new. We can be the people
who help others. We can show that
people help people, and people don’t let people fade away
and lose their lives to alcohol. ♪ (traditional Indigenous
drumming and chanting) How are you today? I’m good. Oh, I saw you
last night with your group there
in the City Hall. Yeah. Camryn. Camryn? I’m Anna.
Nice to meet you. I’m bringing you
your Sober House package. Okay.
I will definitely sign this. Anytime we can help you guys,
that is just awesome. Thank you very much. Want to put it on the window? Okay. Let’s do it. Sure. Camryn:
I feel like someone else is going to eventually
come to this house and eventually start
calling her mum or grandma. Just it’ll be their Sober House
with her, and it’ll be like,
come up and say, “Hi. How are you, grandma?
How are you doing today?” “Staying sober.” And this is going to be
another sober community. (traditional Indigenous
drumming and chanting) ♪

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