Yesterday, driving into town, I stopped for a hiker. I was suspicious. It looked like he had just come from the Greenstone OPP Detachment located on Highway 11 just west of the junction with Highway 584. He was walking toward the junction, facing traffic.
I stopped, rolled down my window. Going to town? I asked. Yes, he was. He belted himself in. Just came from the D.T., he volunteered. It took me a while but I finally deciphered the code. He was obviously a young man, a native. He was cheerful and sociable.
He waited in the car while I transacted some business at Dan’s General Store. When I returned, he stuck out his hand to shake, and offered his name and home community. I reciprocated. He offered more information: They said I couldn’t stand up straight.
Okay, I meditated on that. Then he said, I puked on my socks. He laughed.
I asked if he was in school. Yes, he was.
And at this point, my mind began recalling the scandals of the starlight tours some years ago. Some police officers in various and sundry provinces believed it was their duty to punish drunks and addicts. They would transport them outside the boundaries of their city and then abandon the victims to find their way back. In some cases the victims were even beaten up. In many cases the hour of the day or night or even the foulness of the weather was no barrier to these uncouth and illegal practices. In some cases, in the dead of winter, victims froze to death. This was happening in Canada.
At the time, Greenstone had its own version of this practice. I call it the sunshine tour, for it was considerably less barbaric. Detainees released from the Geraldton lock-up had to find their own way back home. Even in the most foul weather. No one, as far as we know, died. This practice came to public notice and the OPP said they would cease and desist.
Well, judging by my personal experience yesterday, the sunshine tour appears to be alive and well. Downtown Geraldton is 5 kilometres from the Greenstone Detachment. Patrol cars are zipping into Geraldton several times a shift. There is no reason to compel released detainees to foot it for 5 kilometres. If detainees are picked up in Beardmore or Longlac or Nakina, do they have to find their own way home? I don’t know. Somebody in a responsible position should investigate and report. It is not the duty of police officers to punish offenders.
Anyway, I asked my passenger who his teachers were. He named them. I asked him to say hello to the one I knew. He said he would.
Now, what compelled a young man to drink himself into a such a state that he had to be detained for public intoxication? I don’t know. It seems to me that certain public officials should make it their business to find out. Officials in the field of social work and mental health. And it seems to me that police officers should make it their business not to punish such offenders in questionable ways but to refer these victims to health officials. Especially if these victims are, in the eyes of the law, children. I.e., not legally adults.
I dropped my passenger off at the high school. (Now, why did the police not think of that?) He thanked me.
I said, Remember to wash those socks. He laughed.