Press Release

Drug overdoses, addictions statistics hit all-time high; governments need to act now!

May 8, 2023

OTTAWA – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is demanding the federal government and provincial governments take swift action in response to an escalating mental health and addictions crisis. May 3 to 9 is Mental Health Week and the call for action could not be more relevant.

Seven years after British Columbia (BC) declared its province-wide public health emergency on illicit toxic drugs, BC's First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) announced that 2022 had been a devastating year. The data showed there were 373 toxic drug-poisoning deaths among First Nations People, a 6.3 per cent increase compared to data from the previous year.

The report, released last month, found that First Nations People are “particularly and disproportionately” affected by toxic drug deaths, and that Indigenous women are dying from drug overdose(s) at over 11 times the rate of other women.

“When will our Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit, Transgender, and Gender-Diverse+ (WG2STGD+) Peoples living with mental health issues and addictions become a priority for the provinces and federal government,” asked NWAC President Carol McBride? “This report is a stark reminder that lives are being lost. We need government action now to address this health emergency and promote harm reduction and healing among Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit, Transgender, and Gender-Diverse+ (WG2STGD+) Peoples affected by addictions and mental health issues.”

Status of Indigenous Mental Health

Research and Statistics on Indigenous Peoples’ mental health clearly indicate a national failing. First Nations People experience higher rates of depression and twice the suicide rate of the general Canadian population (Source: First Nations and Inuit Regional Health Surveys, 1997: A Synthesis of the National and Regional Reports.)

FNHA stated that it’s now changing its operations to reinforce harm reduction policies for those living in urban areas away from home.

“Our Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit, Transgender, and Gender-Diverse+ (WG2STGD+) Peoples must be a priority,” said Mrs. McBride. “Due to the intergenerational mental trauma caused by the experience of Residential Schools it is imperative that action be taken by the federal and provincial governments to prevent further harm, and promote holistic healing. More specifically, it is urgent that the MMIWG Calls for Justice especially those Calls for Health and Wellness Service Providers be implemented immediately.”


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