In 2022, 1,827 people have lost their lives to toxic drugs in B.C.
The toxic drug crisis has affected countless families across the province, but Indigenous people are adversely suffering from racism and systemic discrimination that prevents access to proper care.
“I can speak to the experience of nursing within an Indigenous community, and the reality is that anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination is very alive and well in B.C.,” said Gwen Grieves, community nurse for Lower Kootenay Band (LKB). “Community members have come forward with their individual stories of how difficult it can truly be to access our health-care system.”
In response to these challenges, LKB decided to recognize National Addictions Awareness Week (Nov. 22 to 28) with a second Canoe Walk.
On Nov. 23, 2012, LKB and Creston community members, along with Creston Valley Hospital Staff, walked a sturgeon-nosed canoe in inclement weather conditions from the LKB to the front doors of the hospital. The canoe, constructed by done Ktunaxa nation youth, was presented to the hospital to signify an ongoing partnership in health. The walk was completed to signify the ongoing challenges that individuals, families, and caregivers face when touched by addiction.
The second Canoe Walk was held last week on Nov. 23, along the same route as 2012. Participants walked side by side from Yaqan Nukiy School and up Highway 21, arriving at the hospital five hours later.
Grieves said the event aims to raise awareness about the ongoing toxic drug crisis, as well as hold health partners accountable for delivering culturally safe care, free from discrimination.
“The reality for the toxic drug crisis in B.C. is that we’re losing six people per day,” said Grieves. “That’s six of our mothers fathers, aunties, uncles, children, and loved ones that we’re losing.
She added that toxic drug poisonings are the leading cause of death for people ages 19 to 35. And despite being only four per cent of the population, First Nations account for 18 per cent of overdoses.