(This column was published in the North Shore News on May 26, 1999)


Crack buys lead to school violence

By Leo Knight

WITH visions of Littleton, Colorado, dancing in their minds, Coquitlam RCMP took no chances last week when reports came through of a young man with a gun at Terry Fox secondary school.  


With an abundance of caution, the Mounties secured the perimeter of the school then ordered the building in total lock-down while they painstakingly searched every part.  


The incident began, in reality, two days earlier when threats were made to a teenage female student of the high school. The threats were met with violence by friends of the girl who tracked down the purveyor of the threats and gave him "what for."  


The following day, far from being chastened, the 19-year-old male returned to the school, nearly ran down some kids in a crosswalk and ultimately threatened another female student with a handgun gently placed at her temple.  


Enter the police.  


But it was the reason for the threats and the violence that startled many. The original girl was threatened over a drug debt owed. Not for a bag of pot, but for crack cocaine.  


Crack, the insidious scourge of American streets, long present on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, had now made it to the burbs. On the same day Vancouver police conducted another sweep of the "skids" following the latest undercover "buy and bust" operation. Thirty-three more warrants were issued for the arrest of crack dealers on Hastings Street, virtually all of them refugee claimants from Central America.  


The prevalence of crack cocaine on the streets of the Downtown Eastside comes as no surprise. The latest announcement of the arrest sweep caused barely a flicker of attention. We've seen it all before. But the appearance of crack in the high schools of Coquitlam should cause us all to sit up and pay attention. If it's available at Terry Fox it's probably just as available at Carson Graham or Handsworth or Sutherland or Sentinel.  


Mounties in Coquitlam said they began seeing the transition in the schools there as long as two years ago. Its usage gradually built in the subsequent time.  


The quality of B.C. hydroponic marijuana has caused the price to rise dramatically. But crack cocaine is cheap -- as little as $10 a rock. It's easily within the financial reach of high school kids. Worse, it is probably the most addictive of all illicit substances available on the streets today.  


North Van Mounties say they haven't seen too much of the stuff in the schools, yet. And "yet" would seem to be the operative word. There are known crack houses in North Vancouver and with the open markets of the skids just a SeaBus ride away, it won't be long until Coquitlam's experiences are mirrored here.  


Doug Mackay-Dunn, a North Shore school trustee and, in his other life, the staff sergeant who oversees policing on the Downtown Eastside, says the police have seen kids from North Shore schools on the so-called crack corners in the city.  


Mackay-Dunn says he is very concerned about the potential availability of crack in our schools. He said the RCMP are watching and the principals are being vigilant. "The principals are aware of the danger and are doing what they can to stop it," Mackay-Dunn said.  


"To say there's no drugs in our schools is wilful blindness. The situation needs to be worked on before the problem becomes too great," he concluded.  


Mackay-Dunn has joined forces with Reform MP Randy White and will be speaking at an anti-drug rally in Abbotsford on May 27, at 6 p.m. at the Ag Rec Centre.  


White is trying to develop a national drug plan to fight drug abuse. He is bringing out former Canadian boxing heavyweight champion, George Chuvalo as the keynote speaker. Chuvalo lost three of his sons to drug abuse and now is a fierce campaigner for the war on drugs.  


* * *  


The Makah Indian Band in Washington state finally killed their whale last week after much fanfare, much criticism and much bluster.  


But what struck me most was not the outrageous photograph of the hunters dancing on the carcass of the marine behemoth, but rather it was the television pictures of the members of the Makah trying to pretend they were enjoying their repast.  


For those who didn't see the videotape, once the dead grey whale had been towed ashore and butchered, a celebration of sorts was held and the participants were all shown "eating" the whale meat. Closer inspection showed the video to be little more than propaganda. Those partaking in the feast were taking little tiny pieces about the size of a pea and clearly having to make an effort to get it down their necks.  


No doubt they would probably prefer the T-bones dished out at the local Safeway.  


The Makah would seem to be engaged in a public relations exercise to convince the world they have the right to kill whales as part of their tradition. I suspect the motive is little more than a desire to capitalize on the huge market in Japan for such delicacies. With the bulk of the civilized world stacked against whaling, the Japanese market has been virtually starved, save for the little harvested from Norwegian waters under the equally suspicious "research" motivation.  


The grey whales were rescued from the brink of extinction not that many years ago. Their species has not yet fully recovered. While the taking of one whale a year by the Makah, if indeed that's where it stops, doesn't mean much in terms of the ultimate survival of the species, the potential for other coastal nations to resume whaling is a real possibility if the trend grows to other First Nations. How does the world say no to Iceland, for example, with their long history and tradition of whaling dating back centuries, if all coastal First Nations take up the hunt?  


Respect for the traditions of First Nations is admirable and to be encouraged. But it is a mistake to let that respect be blind to what is essentially destined to be a commercial enterprise.  


I suspect that if the Japanese developed a taste for buffalo penis, the great tribes of the Plains would suddenly start claiming their traditional right to a buffalo hunt.





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