Cocaine is a terrible thing. We know of at least two successful businesspeople in Clearwater who destroyed their lives because of the drug. Both lost their businesses, their homes and their families, and eventually left town. That was 10 to 20 years ago, but no doubt there have been other. lower profile examples since.
Last week we learned that Stu Seib, the former commander of the Clearwater RCMP detachment, had been charged in Merritt with stealing cocaine from an evidence locker.
It is important to keep in mind that he has only been charged so far – he has not been convicted.
Seib was supposed to be one of the good guys – not just a police officer, but a good one – before all this happened, many would have said he was one of the best this community has had in many years.
Now, unless this charge turns out to be some kind of horrendous mistake, it won’t matter how much good he did during his eight years in Clearwater or the 10 years he served before that as an RCMP officer in other communities. All he will be remembered for will be that he was a senior police officer who betrayed the public trust.
In our role with the newspaper we dealt with Seib quite a bit during his time in Clearwater. We always found him to be quiet, intelligent, thoughtful and considerate. He had a wife and family, was involved with his church, and participated in the community fully.
While he was in charge of Clearwater RCMP he made sure there was always a weekly police report in the newspaper. In his final report before leaving to take over in Merritt he said that, during his eight years here, the local detachment took down over 100 marijuana grow operations, seized many thousands of pot plants, and put six cocaine dealers out of business.
If something like this can happen to a person like Stu Seib, what about the rest of us?
This isn’t to excuse any individual from the responsibility for his or her actions, but we know there is a direct connection between income disparity and the use of illegal drugs.
The evidence that the use of illegal drugs is more common in unequal countries is pretty overwhelming.
Five hundred years ago China was the wealthiest and most technologically advanced country in the world. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer, however. Opium use became accepted by nearly all levels of society. Nearly 200 years ago Britain, a little upstart nation, fought a series of wars to force China to accept the opium trade to pay for the British Empire. An analogy today would be if Colombia defeated the United States and forced it to accept its cocaine.
All of us make mistakes in life. Although all the facts are not yet in, it appears that Stu Seib has made a big one. We wish him well and hope that he is able to solve whatever problems he has and can redeem himself.
In the bigger picture, we need to do what we can to address the growing inequality in Canada and the World. If we fail to do that, we can expect to see more illegal drug use and more of the other problems associated with economic disparity.