MLA Getson: Importance of Community Engagement



It has been said that “The Good Lord works in mysterious ways”, and from what I’ve experienced in life that is true. I do believe that there are things that happen to us in life if we pay attention, which are lessons that we are supposed to learn, and if we are hard of hearing some days, the lessons get a little tougher for us so that when we do pay attention, we get the message.


A month ago, I had a mix up in my calendar and ended up at the right place, right time, for the wrong meeting, but as it would turn out for the right reasons. The initial meeting was to talk to a group about grass root politics, how I got involved originally, how a regular person can get involved and to help make a difference at a local level.


The meeting was to take place at a church, it was in the evening, the person who I had for a contact wasn’t picking up her phone when I was confirming, but people began arriving, so I went in and started talking with folks. I had asked a few of the attendees if they knew the lady who was my contact, and they said they hadn’t seen her at the meeting for a few weeks, but that she could be there tonight. Over my career, and especially in politics, you just have to learn to adapt, roll with the punches sometimes and go with the flow, so that’s what I did.


The room that was being used was in the basement of the church, tables were set in a boardroom style in a rectangle, with a large opening in the centre. Candles were lit at each seated position at the tables, and some laminated literature at each position. There were additional chairs along the walls of the room as overflow in the event there were not enough places at the table. I took a seat at the table and started making small talk with people before the meeting got underway and had offered my seat to another person as they seemed to know several others in the room, but they kindly declined and

suggested I was in a good spot, and the meeting was then shortly called to order.


I glanced at some of the literature, briefly that was at my position, and when the chairperson called out some numbers, the people at the table were to read the information with the corresponding number in front of them, I was number 2. I read my piece and was having suspicions that I may be at the wrong meeting. When the introductions around the table started, and it came to my time, I had full confirmation that I was indeed at the wrong meeting but would leave it up to the group if they wanted

for me to stay.


I introduced myself and advised the group that I didn’t have a drug addiction, however when I was in high school, I did attend a course with a number of other kids from the yellowhead school division that went to the Henwood Treatment facility and spent a week there with people who were recovering from addictions. I was at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. The people at the meeting thanked me and encouraged me to stay. I was able to hear a number of their stories, their journeys, all of them on different stages of obtaining and maintain sobriety. The thing that was most prevalent to me that evening, as it was as a teenager, is that addictions know no bounds, barriers, social conventions, religion, race, or economic status. With the conversations I had with folks at the break, and after the meeting was that the recovery middle of treatment, and the treatment Centre that will be opening in Gunn was needed.


Speaking with the folks at the meeting reaffirmed that there needs to be a place that focuses on the person, on their journey, but also needs to be part of a community. The challenges will always be there, but on the path to recovery the cycle of addiction needs to be disrupted, and that includes giving folks an opportunity to get away from the culture. When I asked a few of how they thought the harm reduction addictions models were going in downtown Edmonton, and how the new “Safe Supply” model was working they rolled their eyes or had more direct commentary of how it was a massive failure.

When I spoke about the recovery model that we were bringing forward, the facility at Gunn, and how there were discussions about community engagement, tying back into employment opportunities, training, there was unanimous words of encouragement and hope, as there is a gap in the system.


I had been having a bit of a tough day in the corporate media that week, the opposition again had been taking a run at me and twisting my words and actions around covid restrictions, as well as interactions with Albertans who drove in the Edmonton Convoy. The same day however, we did have an announcement regarding the facility at Gunn being re-opened as part of a provincial plan for recovery, with little to no media attention. Strange some days what is really important in the media. I believe as it turned out, I was at the right place, at the right time, and needed to be there to meet the folks who would give me unvarnished feedback, and in that safe place share their own stories of addictions.


It gave me strength to carry on, knowing that despite what may be cast at me in the media, or by the opposition that there will be meaningful change, and that we can play a major part in helping folks return to the best part of their lives. I am very happy that our little piece of the province will be playing a larger role in the healing and recovery that is needed by so many. So, if you find yourself at the wrong meeting, before you pick up and leave, give it a second thought, perhaps you are at the right place after all, you never know what lesson, or connection you are supposed takeaway that day.

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