Posted on Jun 21, 2021


EDMONTON - The Alberta NDP are calling on the UCP to direct attention and resources to prevent overdose deaths amongst First Nations People, following a tragic report released on Friday. 

“Alberta is in the midst of an overdose and drug poisoning crisis and Indigenous people are tragically bearing the brunt of this crisis,” said  NDP Mental Health and Addictions critic Lori Sigurdson. 

The report, released quietly online late Friday afternoon, shows that the rate of overdose-related deaths among First Nations people was more than seven times higher than the broader population in the first half of 2020. New data on Friday also indicated that April 2021 was the deadliest April on record for overdose deaths among all Albertans. No UCP cabinet ministers directed attention to either the report or new data, or expressed condolences. 

“On National Indigenous Peoples Day, I am calling on the UCP to focus on reconciliation which includes addressing this overdose crisis,” said NDP Indigenous Relations Critic Richard Feehan. “The crisis is driven in part from the trauma caused by the harmful and wrong actions directed at Indigenous people, including residential schools.”

Judith Gale is a member of Bear Clan Patrol, which is an Indigenous community organization in inner-city Edmonton. 

“Not only are we in a pandemic, we’re in an epidemic of grand proportion,” Gale said. “It is targeting our Indigenous youth. We know that 85 per cent of youth in care are Indigenous. They are soon going to be ageing out of the system and I don’t want them to be the object of this epidemic. 

“In previous years, alcohol and marijuana were the gateway drugs for our youth but not any longer. Nowadays, they go right for heroin. These are our human beings, the people of Mother Earth, that are crying out for help on a daily basis.”

Melissa Peters with Alberta Addicts Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly said systemic racism and the failure to provide solution-focused services that are implemented to prevent oppression of First Nations people leads only to constant oppression.

“We cannot heal in the same system that broke us,” said Peters, who is of Mi'kmaq, Eastern Cree and European descent. “The government wants to introduce a treatment plan that overlooks the trauma which is the cause of many individuals’ dependency on substances. 

“Not everyone is ready for treatment and that should be okay. We need to look at the person, not the substance dependency. The current overdose statistics are alarming but the government needs to do more. Hiding these numbers and quietly releasing a report is again systemic failure of the government.”

A full copy of the report is available here