‘A little hope’: Residents of Mayo, Yukon, hope to forge path forward through drug crisis

Signs around Mayo, Yukon, on March 20 called for community action against drugs. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

People in Mayo, Yukon, say they came out of a town hall meeting Monday night with some hope and faith in each other that they’ll get through the drug crisis gripping the village.

About 60 people came out to the community hall for the meeting, including residents from a subdivision where two people were killed on March 11.

Though the RCMP have not directly linked those homicides to the drug trade, the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun declared a substance use emergency in Mayo last week and called for strict measures to quell the drug trade.

What happens next is still up in the air.

CBC media were not allowed to attend the Monday meeting. Afterwards, Eliza Moses — who has lived in Mayo all her life — said community leaders asked residents for their ideas on how to address the situation.

“[I have] a little hope, yeah — some hope that finally someone’s going to listen to the community,” she said.

“Overall, I feel it’s a good, positive step forward.”

Moses said Mayo is a close-knit village full of good people; it’s been a good place to raise kids and a place where she can go out on the land to hunt and fish.

But things have gotten scary lately, she noted. She wants to see that sense of safety return.

The community hall in Mayo where about 60 residents gathered Monday night to talk about the drug issues in the community. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

She said community leaders talked during the meeting about putting measures into place in the next few weeks, though they haven’t finalized an exact action plan yet.

“They didn’t really say too much about that. [They’re] kind of keeping quiet on things right now because it’s so fresh, until they have a solid plan I guess. And then they’ll let the community know,” she said.

Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Chief Simon Mervyn said the meeting was “a long time coming” and much-needed for residents. He described the issues in the community as a drug war, disrupting the peace of the village, and said he sees education as the key to making sure the issues are short-lived instead of spanning generations.

“How we attack this, or face this, collectively is critically important,” he said. “Hopefully we will put something together that will be useful for years to come: a good template for the rest of the world to see.”

Mayo resident Dominic Berleth said the point of the meeting for him was to hear from his neighbours, not from the community’s leaders.

“The community is awakening to the fact that it’s up to them to do something, and not just to ask the authorities,” said Berleth, who has lived in Mayo for 15 years.

“They’re asking for guidance, but they’re willing to put in the work — which is, probably in every community, a stepping point.”

Dominic Berleth, who has lived in Mayo for 15 years, says he came out to Monday’s town hall to hear what neighbours think of the issues facing the community. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

He said his message to his fellow community members would be that Mayo isn’t alone.

“There have been places [that] have worked together and overcome stuff like this. So I would say we can do that, too,” he said.

Another meeting will be held for more public feedback, though a date has yet to be set for that.

With files from Chris MacIntyre and Virginie Ann

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: No opioid crisis in Canada’s eastern Arctic, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s alcohol consumption declines by 15%, Yle News

United States: Alaska’s drug problem worsening as police resources strained, Alaska Public Media

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