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In the premier's own words (Brian Tobin accused of racism by Natives).

A few days after his remarks appeared in print, Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin appeared on CBC-TV's The Journal to talk about his comments.

"I despair. I have a great feeling of personal frustration ... when I hear upon waking in the morning that there's been another suicide, or another tragedy of some sort in an Aboriginal community.

"I spent several days earlier this winter travelling throughout northern communities. Travelling without press in tow at the request of the communities. They didn't want a circus; didn't want a show. I sat with many women in particular, I sat with young people, who said to me that a substantial part of the problem, the root cause perhaps are social problems. They are poverty, they are unemployment, they are the lack of satisfied or concluded land claims, self-government. All these things are legitimate issues, but at the end of the day alcohol had become a fundamental problem. When you're an alcoholic at that point in time, whatever the root cause initially, that becomes a very big problem.

"And many of these women and young people said to me this is a problem that our community must confront, but it's very difficult for our community to confront the problem if our leaders themselves in some cases -- not every case -- are victims of alcohol abuse, themselves have a problem with alcohol. And if they haven't acknowledged in their own lives this problem with alcohol, how can they lead us, the community at large, to take on and challenge this problem?

"Look, we had one string of suicides: four or five in the space of four or five weeks in one small community ... you can't deal with the problem, you can't confront it, you can't begin to take it on, unless you acknowledge it. There's nothing wrong ... with acknowledging a problem. And if you don't acknowledge it, you certainly can't formulate a commitment personally or community-wide to confront it. And that's all I'm asking for.

"This is not about assigning blame. This is about saying let's publicly acknowledge what some of these challenges are -- certainly alcohol's a big one -- and let's work together to take it on."
COPYRIGHT 2000 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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