Carrier and Sekani Nation chiefs declare state of emergency due to opioid crisis
Federal, provincial governments urged to take immediate action, including development of treatment centre
Several First Nation chiefs have declared a state of emergency in their communities in central B.C. due to the ongoing opioid crisis.
Eleven Carrier and Sekani chiefs, along with the Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS), are calling on the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action to address the crisis, according to a statement released by the CSFS.
"A toxic drug supply, combined with the harms of historical and present-day colonialism, has led to Indigenous people dying from toxic drugs at a much higher rate compared to other B.C. residents," said the statement.
It stated that high rates of mental health issues and addiction, as well as the intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools, are affecting the families the CSFS serves.
Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween said in the past two weeks communities served by CSFS have lost three more lives to the opioid crisis.
She said what's needed is financial commitment from the federal and provincial governments "that claim to prioritize Indigenous needs."
"We felt that the only thing we could do at this point was to issue a state of emergency to gather attention to the crisis that's out there," Leween, who is also CSFS's board president, told CBC News.
"Provincial and federal funding needs to come into our community so that we can do the work that's going to benefit B.C. in general."
The chiefs said any long-term solution must include funding to develop and maintain a holistic healing and treatment centre on Tachick Lake, in the traditional territory of the Saik'uz First Nation.
The B.C. Agricultural Land Commission had previously rejected a CSFS proposal for a treatment facility on agricultural land.
CSFS said the centre would allow them to increase support to Indigenous people across the province. It said it will continue to engage with federal and provincial governments as well as the First Nations Health Authority to seek the necessary funds.