Summerside had its chance on Wednesday to add its voice to a growing chorus calling for something to be done about P.E.I.’s drug problem.
And voice it, it did.
Listening was the provincial Standing Committee on Health and Social Development, which is holding meetings across the Island on the addiction issue. They heard from people on all sides of the issue. Their stories were heartfelt and often distressing.
Local resident Margaret MacKay told the committee she’s seen first-hand what the effects of the drug trade can have on a community, as she said she’s had drug dealers living nearby for many years.
After telling her story, MacKay addressed the committee.
“Hopefully, this tells you what’s really going on. Because you’re getting different opinions on the problem and how to deal with it. But I don’t think you’re really hearing how bad it is. And this is only one house,” said MacKay.
Stories like MacKay’s are all too common, said Bush Dumville, chairman of the committee.
“We’ve had a lot (of people) that have appeared . . . that have deeply moving life circumstances that have happened to them, to their families and to their children,” said Dumville.
“These people have an awful lot of knowledge because they’ve been touched personally by it, and I think the committee is hearing a lot of very useful information.”
Opposition health critic Hal Perry, whose motion in the legislature kicked off these meetings, added some of the stories the committee has heard are downright hard to listen to.
“Oh my God. My eyes are open, and they are open wide,” said Perry.
“Prescription drug abuse is a problem that has quickly escalated in recent years . . . just 20 years ago this wasn’t a problem. And the general population doesn’t know how bad this epidemic is.”
The committee met again Thursday in the Montague area. It met earlier this week in Charlottetown.
The committee will be assembling its report on these meetings in the coming weeks and will present a report to the legislature in the fall.