THUNDER BAY – Two men from Kingfisher Lake First Nation in northern Ontario are walking from their community to Sioux Lookout, Ont., to raise awareness about the need for treatment options to combat prescription drug abuse.
Band Councillor William Mekanak, 37, and youth Bryan Sainnawap, 16, began the 500 kilometre trek to Sioux Lookout March 14. Mekanak said he started the walk to raise funds for a new building to house a Suboxone Treatment Program operated by the community. Currently, the program is run out of the community’s nursing station.
“My vision for this walk is to raise awareness of the prescription drug abuse that is destroying the lives of our young people, our children and our communities,” said Mekanak. “It would be beneficial for the community and surrounding communities to have its own building – a building where clients can come together, talk, share and work together in their healing journey.”
To date, Kingfisher has had two intakes of detox programming using Suboxone. The first intake was in September 2011, taking in 23 clients. The second intake in January included 18 people. Prescription drug abuse has negatively impacted many First Nations in northern Ontario. In 2009, Nishnawbe Aski Nation chiefs declared a regional state of emergency. In the last six months, two First Nations declared community state of emergencies. Resources to combat the problem are minimal in many communities, especially for treatment and detox programs.
Mekanak and Sainnawap are currently north of Pickle Lake, Ont., having walked winter roads since last week. Initially, they planned to start the walk March 22. However, warm weather caused winter road conditions to quickly deteriorate prompting an earlier start. The pair expects to arrive in Sioux Lookout at the Shibogama First Nation Council office by March 29 or 30.
Mekanak is hoping to raise about $150,000. Donations can be made several ways:
- Bank Deposit at CIBC: Transit: 00387 / Account number: 53-02013
- Dropping off cash or cheque at Shibogama First Nations Council in Sioux Lookout
- Northern Cash Link: 6063 5700 0303 3837
- Email money transfer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheques can be made payable to: Kingfisher Lake First Nation c/o Awareness Walk.
Kingfisher Lake is located about 350 kilometres northeast of Sioux Lookout and is home to about 500 people. Shibogama First Nations Council is a tribal council representing five First Nations in the Sioux Lookout area.