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An accomplished First Nations lawyer and author, who has spent much of his career in northern Saskatchewan, says alcohol is killing his people at an alarming rate and it is time for some tough talk.
Harold Johnson delivers that in his latest book, called “Firewater.” The book is about what he has seen and why he finds it so disturbing. Harold Johnson says he has dug too many graves and watched too many people die from alcohol.
He also says most of the crimes he prosecuted involved people who were drunk, but very few of them were alcoholics.
“80 to 85 per cent of the people who show up in court have done something and sometimes the thing they did is an atrocity,” he said. “But they were not addicted, they are not obsessive compulsive drinkers, they just got really drunk and did something really stupid and someone got hurt.”
Johnson says alcohol abuse is an excuse, he says it is stories people tell themselves to justify drinking.
Johnson says the real solution is an honest open dialogue and a new look at a huge problem that took only one generation to become a crisis.
He says many people won’t like what he has to say, but he says it is honest.
“I want to start a conversation,” he said. “I want to bring this filthy subject out into the light and have a good look at it, the racists are going to point their fingers at us, but they point their fingers anyway.”
Johnson says 35 per cent of First Nations people don’t drink at all, he says that is something to be proud of and it should be celebrated and encouraged.
In his book, he writes, “The story about Indians and alcohol has been around for a long time. This does not have to be our story, it never was and we have the power to end it.”
This is the seventh book written by Johnson, he says it is his most important work.