Mayor Tim Johnston continued his push for a detox centre in Thompson during a Sept. 19 community consultation with James Allum, NDP MLA for Fort Garry-Riverview, who was appointed by Premier Greg Selinger to chair the liquor and gaming regulatory consultation committee.
The committee is currently on a tour of Manitoba communities including, Arborg, The Pas, Brandon, Winkler, Winnipeg, and Thompson.
Allum sat at the head table inside St. John’s United church and listened to remarks from city officials as well as the public. The purpose of Allum’s visit however, was not to provide answers and solutions, but rather to act as a liaison to the provincial government and relay the questions of the community.
The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) has a mandate to concentrate on three specific areas, red tape reduction, consumer choice, and social responsibility.
“It’s not just these public consultations to get your voice heard,” said Allum, “we will certainly be accepting e-mails, and there is also an online survey that we would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to fill out.”
The task of social responsibility was the hot button issue when Johnston took the podium to address Allum. Johnston spoke of the social issues that alcohol can cause and the need for the province to step up.
“The reality in Thompson is that we have a vicious cycle of addictions, primarily alcoholism,” said Johnston, “we have rampant alcoholism in Thompson, and despite the continued efforts of a multi-stakeholder committee, we still lack a detox facility in this community. There is a responsibility of the province of Manitoba to ensure the resources to deal with the issues created by addictions is provided to our community.”
The resources of the Addictions Foundation Manitoba (AFM) in Thompson have been stretched to the limit with their large workload.
“We know that many Northerners have to leave the North to obtain detox services; that is unacceptable,” said Johnston, “unfortunately, individuals are detoxing in RCMP cells; that’s unacceptable. Our homeless shelter in Thompson has just 24 beds and is full to capacity and has to turn away up to 40 individuals on a nightly basis.”
Johnston went on to explain that without a detox facility available to these individuals, the cycle of addiction will continue to repeat itself.
Since May 2012, there have been 5,092 incidents of open alcohol in Thompson, in 2,359 of those instances, the alcohol was poured out. Statistics also indicate that there have been 3,107 incidents of loitering, and 550 instances of drunk and disorderly behaviour.
Johnston quoted the statistics, clearly alarmed by the staggering number of alcohol-related incidents.
“The sale of the products by the MLCC has a huge impact on our community and the quality of life,” said Johnston.
Deputy Mayor Dennis Fenske, who is also the chair of the public safety committee, was at Johnston’s side and also spoke about the financial impact that problems relating to alcohol have on the city.
“At this time, the City of Thompson is absorbing the cost associated with managing behavioural issues and violence due to alcoholism,” said Fenske, “Thompson needs a similar facility to the Main Street project in Winnipeg, as well as a stage one detox facility, a cadet program and transitional housing.”
The Province of Manitoba announced a portion of their budget would be allocated for a rural cadet program, but to date has failed to fulfil that commitment.