• Stephanie O’Hanley

Drug awareness event gets Grade 6 students thinking about their choices


Station 5 officers Const. Serge Martel (left) and Const. Claudia Rochon (right) address children at the SPVM booth at the Drug Addiction Prevention Day presentation in Dorval.

Last week the Sarto-Desnoyers Community Centre in Dorval echoed with the voices of excited children as Grade 6 students from Clear Point Elementary and Dorval Elementary attended the last day of Drug Addiction Prevention Days, held from March 24 to 26.

“We’ve come together to build this project for you guys, it’s drug awareness,” Const. Liliana Bellucci, a sociocommunity officer with Pointe Claire’s Station 5 told students. A total of about 550 Grade 6 students from seven French and English elementary schools in Dorval and Pointe Claire participated in the event and received T-Shirts that drove home the message: “My Choices, My Future.”

For nine years, Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) Station 5 has headed the CAP (Comité des Aviseurs des Partenaires), the organizing committee responsible for the bilingual event. The committee includes Bellucci, Station 5 socio-community officer Const. Hélène Jubinville and Commander Mohamed Bouhdid, staff from the cities of Dorval and Pointe Claire, the West Island Community Resource Centre, Action jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’Île (AJOI) and the West Island YMCA. Partners include the CN Police Service, Lester B. Pearson and Marguerite Bourgeoys school boards, Maison Jean Lapointe, CSSS nurses, ThinkFirst Quebec and Urgences-Santé.

Groups of students spent nine minutes attending each workshop at one of 10 interactive kiosks, only switching when organizers played music. At the CN Police kiosk, children wore goggles simulating the experience of being impaired while they crossed a carpet resembling train tracks.

The challenge appeared even harder at the SPVM’s booth, where children wore the same kind of goggles but this time had to either walk on a line and give an officer a high five afterwards or navigate between safety cones and then put a magnetic dart on a dart board. “It all comes down to being able to make the right decision, guys,” Station 5 Const. Claudia Rochon said. “Right now you’re pretty young and you’re not drinking but eventually it’s going to happen.”

Responding to a faux emergency, children at the Urgences-Santé booth performed chest compressions on small CPR mannequins lying on the floor before them. Staff from the Maison Jean Lapointe role-played a situation where a drunken man offers his female friend a ride home from a party, and asked children to decide the level of risk involved. ThinkFirst Quebec’s “Drugs and the brain” kiosk included slides with brain scans of people who don’t use drugs or alcohol versus those who do and children learned that street drugs often have added ingredients such as rat poison, glue, and paint thinner and the drug ecstasy can resemble candy.

At AJOI’s booth, staff put a potato through a vegetable chopper. The point? While commercials that put eggs on walls may be a “bit exaggerated” there’s truth in the message that drugs have an effect on the brain. The YMCA’s two kiosks offered a stark contrast. At one booth children watched a video about the consequences of drunk driving, and then they played on a driving simulator both with and without impairment goggles. At a booth celebrating fitness, students not only did push-ups, lunges, jumping jacks and squats but tried to hold up a paper by blowing through a straw, a lesson on what smoking can do to your lungs. While companies market energy drinks as a great source of energy, Mylaine Cardin, a nutritionist with the Lester B. Pearson School Board, told students, “it’s a fake energy, they’re more stimulants.”

Lianne Brown, a nurse with the CSSS de l’Ouest-de- l’Île, quizzed students on tobacco and cigarette addiction. “Teenagers become more quickly addicted to nicotine than adults,” Brown said. “The reason for that is your brain is not completely developed so your brain chemistry is more susceptible to any substance.” After visiting the kiosks, students were delighted to see an officer from the K-9 unit at the Montréal-Trudeau Airport drop by with a young German shepherd he’s training to detect explosives.