THUNDER BAY – News Update – In a move to counteract the rising tide of illegal drug and alcohol abuse, the Mushkegowuk Council has approved essential funding to support Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moose Cree, and Attawapiskat First Nations.
This decision, made during a recent Mushkegowuk Chiefs meeting, is a direct response to the escalating crisis that has been devastating these communities.
Unprecedented Funding to Address Substance Abuse
This newly approved funding will be instrumental in curbing the flow of illegal substances, bolstering bylaw enforcement, and establishing a Regional Community Safety Project. This project is set to focus on combating drug and alcohol addiction within these First Nations communities.
Regional Community Safety Project Launches
Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Leo Friday emphasized the significance of this development. “This investment is a major step towards improving the quality of life for community members, particularly those battling addictions and seeking to change their lifestyle as part of their healing journey,” he stated.
A United Effort Against a Growing Crisis
The Mushkegowuk Chiefs’ unanimous approval of the funding highlights a strong sense of unity and recognition of the need for collaborative progress. In November 2017, the Council had declared a regional state of emergency in response to the growing distribution and impact of illegal substances, including alcohol.
The Harrowing Statistics: A Call to Action
Preliminary findings from the Ontario Regional Coroner’s Office, released in December 2023, reveal a troubling reality. The drug toxicity death rates in Mushkegowuk First Nations from 2019 to 2023 were triple the Ontario average, underscoring the severity of the crisis.
Beyond Enforcement: A Focus on Healing and Support
“The impact of illegal drugs and alcohol extends beyond criminal activity—it affects every aspect of community life, from healthcare and education to housing and social services,” Friday added. “In some way or another, every community member is affected. The illegal drug and alcohol trade has taken over our communities. It’s a serious disease. Its big dirty business being brought in our communities by criminals from the south and it’s killing us. Our region is in a very serious crisis and we need to continue working together on taking action.”
Deputy Grand Chief Amos Wesley concurred, adding, “We need to work with the people that are involved with the use of illegal drugs and alcohol. We don’t want them to go to jail, we want to help them, and in order to do that, we need to provide them with more healing services. “We also acknowledge and commend the service providers that are out there trying to help the people suffering from illegal drugs and alcohol but they too need more support. Their programs and services are underfunded and need emergency support to implement more effective strategies to reduce the illegal drug trade in our communities. It is our responsibility as leaders to take action.”
Community Resilience in the Face of Ongoing Challenges
Despite community-led efforts and healing programs during the recent pandemic, these First Nations continue to face critical challenges. The Mushkegowuk Council’s decisive action signifies a commitment to addressing these issues head-on, with a focus on community well-being and long-term solutions.