There have been stories in the news recently about a teenage girl overdosing on ecstacy at a West Edmonton Mall Rock ‘n’ Ride and the mall’s solution is to stop having these events. While it does remove the problem from the purview of West Edmonton Mall, it doesn’t address the deeper issue: the fact that people at younger and younger ages are involved in the use of drugs and alcohol. I’m not going to preach teenage abstinence towards sex, drugs, and alcohol; it’s been shown countless times that this kind of approach doesn’t work. What I will suggest is that we look at treating the root cause of the problems we’re facing instead of finding various band-aids to treat the symptoms. I would hope that the people at West Edmonton Mall don’t think that by stopping Rock ‘n’ Ride events the problem of teenage drug use goes away because, effectively, all they’ve done is elbow it out of the mall. Yet it still remains on our streets and in our bars, clubs, schools, and homes.
I posit that if we were to stop, sit down, and look at why we’re seeing the problems of teenage sex and drug and alcohol abuse taking center stage – as well as a host of others including increased weapons violence, a rise in homelessness, and the continuing struggle against drunk-driving – we can begin to solve these problems at their core. However, as soon as the symptoms of one of these problems flares up, Edmontonians demand immediate action. So West Edmonton Mall stops its Rock ‘n’ Ride events or Mayor Stephen Mandel proposes a bylaw prohibiting the sale and carrying of large knives or the city launches a campaign to “Curb the Danger” (which, to my point, goes after the symptom). And so, because of these half-measures, people are placated and lulled into a false sense of security that the problems have been dealt with. But, lo and behold, the problems continue to flourish like a disease whose symptoms have been masked.
While I may not have the answers to all the problems we are facing, I truly think there is a better way to go about solving them which requires investing time and effort and not settling for a quick fix. The majority of the people in this city aren’t fools and it doesn’t take long for them to recognize when real action is being taken versus when something is being said simply to shut them up. So let’s sit down and talk about the things we see wrong in our city and work to understand their root causes – only then can we come up with the right approach to solving them. And, when we accomplish this, we’ll be able to take on the challenges we face provincially, nationally, and even globally. Like John F. Kennedy said, “our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man.”