Gang prevention education at Haahuupayak School

By Denise Titian, February 3, 2017

The Grade 7 students of Haahuupayuk School with Constable Scott MacLeod of Port Alberni’s Aboriginal Policing Services.

Photo by Denise Titian

Port Alberni — 

The Grade 7 students of Haahuupayuk School vowed to stay away from drugs and gangs so that they can live long, happy lives in a safe community.

Their discussion about drugs and gangs came after a series of prevention presentations delivered by RCMP Constable Scott MacLeod of Port Alberni’s Aboriginal Policing Services.

The students spend time on Thursdays with Cst. MacLeod watching segments of a video called “The Truth on Gangs” produced by Odd Squad Productions (OSP). The video is just one of several reality-based educational presentations on the true costs of the gang lifestyle.

According to their website, OSP uses reality footage, real-life stories, and compelling interviews. OSP gang experts lay bare the harsh outcomes of the gang life: Jail, drug addiction, death, or a combination.

On Feb. 2 the students viewed footage of interviews with a man who escaped the gang life and of grieving family members who lost loved ones to the gang life far too soon.

The former gang member said the life expectancy for a gangster is 30 years. Most die due to violence or overdose.

Cst. MacLeod reminded the kids of a previous video segment where a former gangster talked about another way out of the gang life – prison. The young man cannot watch his child grow up because he’s doing so much time in prison that his child will be grown up before his release.

The video was followed by a discussion and the kids were asked what they learned from the videos.

“We learned to not join gangs if we want to have a long and happy life,” said one student.

“My family member said if he ever saw drugs in our community he’d grab it, crush it or burn it, probably to protect us,” said another student.

While the students were talking, the sounds of drumming and singing from a nearby classroom could be heard. Some of the Grade 7’s kept time, drumming fingers on their desks, two sang softly while another waved her arms in dance motions.
“We learned drugs are bad, never take drugs. Make good decisions; don’t join gangs – Join culture groups!”

Cst. MacLeod promised to bring Nuu-chah-nulth elders in to speak to the children about their experiences with gangs as they grew up.

Odd Squad Productions is a charitable organization comprised of police officers, both active and retired, along with volunteers, and is recognized as a leader in the field of drug and gang education for youth.

Odd Squad receives no funding from the Vancouver Police Department.

Donations made to Odd Squad Productions help the organization in delivering valuable and needed reality-based education on the consequences of engaging in risky behaviour to thousands of students in the Lower Mainland, throughout B.C, and across Canada.

“We empower youth to make positive life choices about drug use and criminal behaviour through documentaries and education.”

OSP has developed materials and programs for presentation in schools and in First Nations communities. Other presentation topics include: Mortality and drugs in Canada, workshops that explore addiction, youth strategies for avoiding drug use and much more.

OSP substance abuse presentations are reality-based and have been developed with the help of educational and addictions medicine experts.

The addicts themselves are advising youth not to follow in their footsteps.

All presentations can be tailored to either the elementary school age audience or the high school audience.

More recently the team has produced videos and podcasts about the dangers of fentanyl.

They are a reality-based education on the dangers of using fentanyl as well as experimenting with other illicit drugs and a strong deterrent for youth considering experimenting with this toxic and dangerous drug.

“Fentanyl has emerged as a new and deadly drug trend, responsible for hundreds of deaths in BC/Alberta in the last year. As of the first three months of 2016, BC had experienced 200 overdoses related to fentanyl, prompting the Medical Health officer to declare fentanyl as “public health emergency”.

These video interviews and tragic family profiles would also form separate podcasts that would be available to the public on multiple different social media platforms, including the Odd Squad website.