Treaty 6 Chiefs declare state of emergency over opioid deaths

Treaty 6 chiefs are speaking out about drug poisoning

The Confederacy of Treaty 6 Nations in Alberta announced Monday it has declared a state of emergency due to the opioid drug crisis.

Families, friends, and loved ones are being lost to this devastating crisis,” Grand Chief Leonard Standingontheroad said in a news release from the organization’s annual general meeting.

“If harm reduction isn’t available, our People will die.”

Standingontheroad called on the federal government to “intervene and offer more effective, flexible and long lasting support.”

The confederacy says Treaty 6 is the only one in Canada to have a medicine chest clause, where the signatories for the Crown promised medical care would be provided through the federal Indian Agent. In modern times, this has been interpreted as the federal government being responsible for medical care.

Its chiefs requested “immediate mobilization, support, and additional funding from all levels of government” as a part of their state of emergency.

The release highlighted many drug-related issues APTN News has covered including the drop in life expectancy and the fact that opioid poisoning deaths have increased since the 2020 closing of a Lethbridge safe injection site by the Alberta government.

The Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 said that 71 First Nations declared an opioid crisis but only an estimated 22 to 24 of them have received funding.

Read More:

First Nations life expectancy plummets in Alberta due to opioid deaths

It was also said that the recovery treatment beds promised to the communities in Treaty No. 6 by the provincial government are inaccessible or in most cases non-existent.

Meanwhile, the comments in the release run counter to Chief Cody Thomas of Enoch Cree Nation, a member nation in the Confederacy of Treaty Six Nations made in April 2023 at a press conference announcing 30 million for a drug treatment centre from the provincial government.

“You can’t just allow people to keep filling themselves with drugs…you have to give them a glimmer of hope,” Thomas said at the time.
“We are all working on a strategy for Treaty 6…there’s positives and negatives to anything, and I think what we are trying to do is find that balance.”

APTN contacted the confederacy for clarification on what measures are meant in their call for harm reduction measures but did not hear back by the time this story was published.

“We’re continuing to strengthen these partnerships with Treaty 6 by committing to build and fully fund a recovery community in direct partnership with Enoch Cree Nation. Across Alberta we’ve announced the construction and funding of three more recovery communities in direct partnership with Tsuut’ina Nation, Siksika Nation, and Kainai Nation,” said Dan Williams, the minister for mental health and addiction in an emailed statement to APTN.

The minister added that although these centres are “outside of [their] traditional jurisdiction” they felt it was an essential step to moving forward with First Nations.

Brooks Arcand-Paul, Indigenous relations and reconciliation critic for the New Democratic Party in Alberta, said there are “missed opportunities” in Indigenous health.

“Most Indigenous folks, especially if you live in a small tight-knit community, know somebody who is affected [by addiction] or who lost their life because of this,” he said in an interview.

“Here in Alberta, we have a lack of available treatment beds and an over-abundance of people who need or want the help.”

Editor’s note: this story was updated at 4:51 MT July 7 with comments from Minister Dan Williams

Contribute Button