First Nations gather for opioid healing conference to discuss crisis
'I believe all First Nations need to get together, strategize together'
Indigenous people from across Canada gathered on the Tsuut'ina First Nation Monday for a conference to discuss the ongoing opioid crisis.
The conference — titled Opioid: Wiping the tears and healing the pain — focuses on finding and crafting solutions to help First Nation communities address addiction and social issues that stem from it.
One attendee, Patrice Crate of Enoch Cree Nation, is a mental health advocate. She says opioids have touched every facet of her and her family's lives.
She became seriously ill after an ectopic pregnancy, and had multiple surgeries because she wasn't able to conceive.
"I spent 10 years addicted to opioids because after every surgery I was given opioids, percocets and Tyleon 3s," she said.
She said after she got clean, the drug still had a hold on her life as she watched her husband struggle with a rare disease and opioid addiction, taking 30 to 80 OxyContin a day to handle the severe pain.
Her son now struggles with his mental health after seeing his mother using, she said.
But now she's in recovery, participating in ceremonies and sweats.
"I share my story everywhere I can to encourage people there is hope," she said.
"This opioid crisis we are in is so, so critical. It is a huge crisis and we need to support one another and share our stories."
Wanda Cote, of the New Beginnings outreach centre on the Cote First Nation, said her organization offers services from needle exchanges and counselling to life skills and beading classes. The agency, which incorporates the Saulteaux culture in its programs, partners with doctors and nurses in Regina and Saskatoon to do liver scans and test for HIV and Hep C.
"I believe all First Nations need to get together, strategize together and really think outside of the box," she said.
"Addiction doesn't just go away in three years, four years."
The conference, organized by the Global Indigenous Council, wraps up Tuesday.
With files from Livia Manywounds