Could Johan Kiktorak's death have been avoided? Friends call for addictions treatment in N.W.T.
'He won't be the first and he won't be the last until people say enough is enough'
Almost six months after Johan Kiktorak was found dead on a ski trail in Inuvik, some people are wondering if his death could have been prevented.
Kiktorak's frozen body was found on Christmas Day, RCMP say. That day, temperatures dipped to below -30 C. He was 50 years old.
Though homeless at the time, his sister said he had been staying with a friend. Veronica Kiktorak described her brother as "loving and caring."
"He won't be the first and he won't be the last until people say enough is enough," said Jim Sawkins, a friend and Inuvik's fire chief.
Kiktorak was a former fire chief in Aklavik who joined the Inuvik department as a volunteer in 1987. Sawkins said he'd had recently taken time off to try and get help.
Sawkins said Inuvik has some supports, like shelters and counselling for addicts, but more is needed.
"I lost a family member. Johan was a member of the fire department and he was a family member."
No treatment close to home
The Northwest Territories' only addictions facility closed in 2013 when the territorial government pulled funding, saying it wasn't meeting client needs.
Those seeking treatment now travel to Alberta or British Columbia for care.
"It's almost like trying to send someone down to Club Med and then bringing them back to town and say, 'Here, we'll drop you back in the same environment and the same problem,'" Sawkins said.
Any local treatment program, Amos said, also needs to draw upon residents who have battled addictions and aren't just trained professionals from down south.
"Some of our best resources have been people that have suffered addictions," Amos said.
"They have a way of giving back to the community and they have the empathy and understanding of what people are going through."
The Department of Health wasn't available for an interview but said in an email it has a list of treatment options for addicts on its website.
That includes a link to the NWT Help Line — 1-800-661-0844 — and a list of residential treatment options outside of the territory.