Not In Chip: Northern Alberta hamlet campaigning against drugs

Three Indigenous groups in Fort Chipewyan have launched a new campaign against drug activity, with the goal of strengthening the community’s relationship with the RCMP and promoting a healthy way of living.

Judy-Ann Cardinal, vice president of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125, started the campaign Not in Chip.

Cardinal works with youth in the community and said she’s approached by kids every week who say their friends are using drugs and they’re worried. 

“I lived in Fort Chip all my life… I’ve seen a change in our youth,” Cardinal said. “It really hurts me.”

Last year, she met with the First Nations in the community and started Not in Chip. The goal is to raise awareness about drug issues and treatment options.

The RCMP, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation,  Métis Local 125  and Nunee Health formed a committee to meet regularly and discuss the state of drug use in the community. 

“I think people need to speak up. I think they need to be more involved with the RMCP,” said Cardinal.

“I just feel like we need to work together… Our people matter,”  Cardinal said.

Part of the campaign’s aims is to make people more comfortable going to the RCMP with information about drug use.

The groups are also putting together family activity nights to promote sober, family-oriented fun. 

“We always tell them to come have fun and be sober,” said Cardinal. 

Superintendent Mark Hancock, officer in charge of Wood Buffalo RCMP detachment, said he met with leaders in October to talk about drugs in the community. 

He arranged special training for Fort Chipewyan officers with instruction from ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams) and the RCMP drug unit in Fort McMurray. The training included intelligence gathering training, which teaches officers how to safely gather confidential information. 

“You need to make people feel safe in their communities,” said Hancock. “That’s something that we’re trying to accomplish here.” 

Since the campaign started, Hancock said he has seen an increase in the number of people coming to him, other officers, leaders and Crime Stoppers with tips.

Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Peter Powder said it’s important to bring awareness to the drug issue, and encourage people to work with the RCMP. 

“Some people are into wanting to help out and some people are afraid for their safety. So that’s why we’re continuing to have meetings,” said Powder. 

“This drug campaign, knowing that we’re all in this together as a community, makes people feel more safer,” said

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam said he wants to protect youth in the community from drug use.

“We’re working with the RCMP in the community to raise awareness about drug use and drug dealers,” he said.

Kendrick Cardinal, president of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Local, said the campaign promotes a healthy way of living and the “good things in life.” 

“I feel like we’re making a difference,” said Powder. 

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