BOW VALLEY – As Alberta continues to adapt to the legalization of cannabis, here in the Bow Valley, youth are working to keep cannabis out of the hands of children.
During its regular council meeting on Jan. 14, the Town of Canmore approved operational expenditures for a Youth Wellness Team, comprised of five students from Canmore and five students from Morley, to both educate other youth on cannabis and to further the Town’s efforts to right relations with its Indigenous neighbours.
“We want to empower students to become leaders in these communities," said Megan Imrie, FCSS program coordinator for the Town of Canmore.
"This is a unique opportunity to begin relationship building between Canmore and Stoney Nakoda youth. In spite of close geography, there’s still seldom overlap in activities between the two communities.
“We looked at gaps in areas of our current support and high school students are one demographic where we saw opportunity for prevention work. The reason this is a wellness team and not a drug prevention team … it still hits all the drug prevention promising practices, but allows for a greater focus on leadership, relationship building, and involves students in a more palatable and impactful way in their community.”
Imrie explained the Youth Wellness Team, which includes students from Canmore Collegiate High School and Morley Community School, would include a number of workshops.
“It would be a number of workshops and experiences over the course of a few months with these students that incorporates various leaders in the community and mentors through different aspects of wellness,” she explained.
“So that would be mental wellness, physical wellness, social and spiritual wellness. Students will be tasked with creating a community wellness event, so one in Canmore and one in Morley, and the whole team would help design and run this event.”
In addition, students will document their experiences alongside a professional photographer and showcase their skills in a gallery in both communities at the end of the term, which will run until May.
The Town of Canmore received $62,614 for the Municipal Cannabis Transition grant in February of 2019, however planning for how this particular prevention based program would be run didn’t begin until September.
The money will be used for a number of different things through the Youth Wellness Team, such as contracting out a professional photographer and a public speaking, or acting professional, providing students with team experiences such as Banff Centre speaker series, a land-based experience with a Stoney Nakoda elder, and an event with Telus Spark’s Science of Mental Health.
Alongside this, the money will support program supplies and administration, community wellness events, and transportation.
“The key is to support students as they navigate their own paths,” said Imrie.
The objectives for the team include cross-cultural learning and relationship building; improved leadership skills, self-efficacy and resilience; wellness education; and supporting community participation.
Mayor John Borrowman said he supports the vision Imrie and her team have created to leverage the grant funding.
“I’m impressed by the depth of the planning given it’s a relatively small budget,” said Borrowman.
“I will support the motion, I think its really an interesting approach to using the funding that’s available and particularly the way the project involves the Stoney Nakoda youth and working with Canmore youth. That becomes a really multi-beneficial program. Not only building awareness of cannabis use but also building the cross-cultural connections.”
Councillor Esmé Comfort echoed Borrowman’s sentiments.
“I applaud your efforts, the program is quite a comprehensive one,” she said.
In December 2018, the province of Alberta decided all municipalities would pay for its own policing in terms of cannabis use. The government agreed it would give out a Municipal Policing Assistance Grant with a funding opportunity to support the Municipal Cannabis Transition Program (MTCP).
“A little background on this grant – the MTCP is intended to support municipalities in addressing, enforcement and administrative costs related to the legalization of cannabis in Alberta,” said Imrie.
The grants objectives include keeping cannabis out of the hands of children, promoting safety, protect public health, and limit the illegal market for cannabis.