First Nations issue resolutions to ban drug traffickers
Addictions counsellor hopeful Esgenoôpetitj band council will follow Elsipogtog and Tobique
As Esgenoôpetitj First Nation mourns and prepares for the funeral service of a suspected overdose victim, an addictions counsellor says they're remaining vigilant and hopeful there will be no more overdoses.
Leo Bartibogue said there should be help available for people with addicitions, but he would also like to see something done to keep drugs like the pills suspected to have caused 35-year-old Ann Marie Lambert's death — and four other overdoses — off the reserve.
The drug involved isn't known yet, though people are concerned it's fentanyl, a powerful drug that has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths across Canada. Neguac RCMP have asked Health Canada's toxicology lab for an "urgent" analysis of the drug taken by Lambert.
Bartibogue is hoping to see the band council pass a drug-trafficking banishment resolution like councils in Elsipogtog First Nation and Tobique First Nation have.
"I did talk to the chief about it and asked that he make a recommendation. He's going to address it with the council."
The band councils' resolutions were passed two days after the first four overdoses occurred in Esgenoôpetitj. Both communities' resolutions warn that people trafficking fentanyl and other drugs will be banned.
Tobique's resolution includes not only banishment from the reserve, but also from community services and benefits.
The band councils say they are taking these steps to protect the health and safety of those living in the community.
Bartibogue said in Esgenoôpetitj so many people are related it may be difficult for some to agree to a similar measure, knowing some people may be expelled.
"Hopefully something can be done to help this situation." said Bartibogue.
For John Levi of Elsipogtog First Nation, the news the band council is taking action is welcome.
"I've been fighting with the band to get rid of the dealers. I'm proud of the chief and council for taking that stand," he said.
Levi said he's been confronting people identified to him as dealers, telling them to stop what they are doing.
For him, it's personal.
"I lost my niece last year to suicide, I knew what the drugs were doing to her," Levi said of the 23-year-old.
With the resolution, he hopes more people will join his fight and more band councils will pass the same resolution.
"It takes strong a leader to do that. We need more of that," said Levi.
Meanwhile, Bartibogue is working to get more naloxone kits into the community and more people trained to use them.
Naloxone is administered by a needle or nasal spray to a person who is suspected to have overdosed. It reverses the effect of an opioid overdose.
"I have one myself and we have two or three others," said Bartibogue. "But we also need people to call us for help if they think someone has overdosed. We are here to help."
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