Survey on alcohol abuse, health risks online for 'Flonners

A group of Flin Flonners concerned about alcohol abuse is seeking the public’s opinion on the subject.

The Community Alcohol Management Plan (CAMP) working group has released a public survey to discover more about alcohol and its role in Flin Flon. The goal of the survey is to find exactly what Flin Flonners think about alcohol abuse in the greater community and to discover attitudes and behaviours around alcohol and associated issues.

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“We thought we’d start with a survey and see where we’re at with the community at large. Then, once we have that data, we’ll all come together and we’ll start talking about addressing some of the things that came out of the survey,” said Colleen Tower, one of the group’s organizers.

CAMP isn’t advocating against alcohol or its consumption, but is looking at using harm reduction methods to fight against problem drinking and related issues.

The idea of CAMP was sparked last year, when northern Saskatchewan-based lawyer and author Harold Johnson visited Flin Flon to discuss alcohol-related issues. Johnson is the author of several books, including Firewater, a story that details the complex and destructive relationship between alcohol abuse and Canadians, particularly Indigenous Canadians and communities.

Tower said part of the speech discussed community alcohol management plans, which provide ways to minimise and monitor harm brought on by alcohol. Similar plans have been put in place in other northern communities.

“There was quite a lot of us in that room and after that presentation was over, we all started having conversations with each other like, ‘Maybe we should do something like this,’” Tower said.

The CAMP group has been meeting every other month to discuss their own findings and feelings about alcohol in Flin Flon. The new survey has been proposed as a way to branch out and hear response from the public.

“We know that there’s stuff going on. We see it all the time. We see it in social media. We see it in the stats. I guess where we’re coming from is where we’re at right now, a lot of it isn’t working to the best of its abilities,” said Tower.

“Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe we’re making the wrong assumptions. This survey should highlight if we’re making wrong assumptions about anything, but maybe we’re right. I think we didn’t want to jump to conclusions about what’s wrong, but we wanted to get a general sense from the whole community about what’s going on.”

Leading up to the public survey, the CAMP group sent letters requesting support to community councils representing Flin Flon, Creighton, Denare Beach and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN). Tower said all four communities were supportive of the group.

“They are very aware that we’re doing it and I think a lot of people are curious to find out what we’re learning to see if they can play any part in whatever the results from this are,” Tower said, adding that evidence showing alcohol abuse and its impact on crime and health issues is clear.

“We know if we look at general statistics that alcohol contributes to some of the health issues that go on all over the place, but in our community too. I’m hoping that’s something we can learn from the survey, too. If people are aware that if you’re following drinking guidelines, you may be taking a risk with your health also. The public might not notice any effects of alcohol, but you may be having some health struggles,” she said.

“We set up the table and everybody has different perspectives. Does it impact parenting? Does it impact family violence? Does it impact employment? Does it impact the economic structure of our community? These are all things that we’d like to know and that’s kind of where we went with the survey.”

The survey will be online until July 5. A link to the survey can be found here. Printed copies can be found at several local businesses and health centres.

“We’ve really had some good response so far and we’re looking forward to it. We’re keeping it open until the first weekend of July in order to get as many responses as we can,” Tower said.

“The biggest thing that we want people to know is that we are not trying to take away alcohol, in any way. We just want to know how we can reduce the harms.”

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