FORT ALBANY – Since 2010 and likely longer, the remote northern Ontario community of Fort Albany have been experiencing a barrage of health and social crisis. Between 2010-2013, the community’s suicide crisis reached epidemic proportions and a State of Emergency had been declared. Illicit drugs and alcohol were identified as the major contributor for the mounting, premature deaths in the community. The pivotal moment came on May 27, 2019 when community members called a meeting between the Chief and Council to address the current health and social crisis in the community demanding “real action” on the illicit drug and alcohol problem. The community members also demanded that the Chief and Council declare a State of Emergency so that the federal and provincial governments will respond and provide the resources to bring this community health emergency under control.
“Unfortunately, a majority of our children, elders and other community members are all victims of the illegal drug trade and the use of illegal drugs and alcohol in our community. Illegal drugs and alcohol continue to create serious major challenges and impacts our community governance, policing service, health care system, schools, child welfare services, housing programs, and social services… it’s like a war zone where we are all trying to tackle these issues,” says Deputy Chief Robert Nakogee
“The residential school and the sixties scoop experiences have resulted in intergenerational trauma. Many of our community members choose unhealthy coping mechanisms as ways of dealing with their experiences of ritualistic sexual/mental/emotional and physical abuse, loss of parental/sibling relationships, loss of language, loss of culture, loss of spiritual beliefs and the loss of community ties. Poor coping through alcohol consumption and drug use is extensive. Community members are reportedly drinking excessive amounts at an earlier age. On the rise, are babies born drug or alcohol dependent, child neglect, poor school attendance, learning disabilities, under or malnourished children, childhood mental illnesses and suicidal ideation. This illegal drug and alcohol epidemic are causing many of our unborn innocent children to come into this world unhealthy.” says Chief Leo Metatawabin.
On Tuesday, May 28, 2019, the Chief and Council of the Fort Albany First Nation under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, declared a state of emergency for the serious widespread health pandemic that is caused by Illegal Drugs and Alcohol
(including prescription drugs) which is affecting every person’s well-being and community wellness.
In declaring this State of Emergency, the Chief and Council identified a number of Calls to Action that include; reducing/eliminating the flow of illegal drugs and alcohol into the community, more access to treatment programs, more local mental health support services, drug enforcement unit and addressing the 2011 state of emergency on housing in Fort Albany.