Grand Council Treaty #3 Declares State of Emergency on Mental Health and Addictions

Grand Council Treaty #3 Grand Chief Kavanaugh speaking to Senate Committee

Urgent Action Needed as Treaty #3 Faces Rising Crisis

Thunder Bay, ON – Grand Council Treaty #3, under the leadership of Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh and the Chiefs-in-Assembly, has declared a nation-wide Mental Health and Addictions State of Emergency across Treaty #3 territory. This critical move responds to the escalating mental health and addiction crises impacting Treaty #3 communities, marked by a resolution passed at the 2023 Fall Assembly.

Background and Immediate Need

The declaration comes in response to a surge in suicides and mental health challenges within Treaty #3. The crisis is exacerbated by the failure of Canada, Ontario, and Manitoba to meet their responsibilities under Treaty #3 to ensure the health and well-being of the Anishinaabe Nation. This state of emergency calls for immediate, unified, and comprehensive action across all communities to enhance mental health services, including crisis intervention and community support.

Leadership Speaks Out

Grand Chief Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh emphasized the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization and systemic discrimination. He stressed the need for sustainable funding to support community-driven solutions:

“The legacy of colonization and continued oppression, intergenerational trauma, health inequity, and systemic discrimination experienced by many First Nations people and communities has significantly impacted the social wellbeing of Treaty #3. Sustainable funding is required to support the development, implementation, and evaluation of our own solutions to address the mental health needs of our communities.”

Chief Wayne Smith, Board Chair of Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services, highlighted the severe impact of opioid addiction and shared his hopes for collaborative solutions:

“The mental health and addiction emergency devastating our Anishinaabeg communities is a direct result of our shared generational trauma, systemic oppression, and collective experience with assimilation. In our area, numbers have shown we have the highest rates of opioid poisoning in the entire North-West catchment area. It brings hope, with this resolution that through collaboration, unity, and shared vision of mino-bimaadiziwin, our people can overcome adversity with strength, resilience, and truth.”

Chief Lorraine Cobiness, Board President of Ogimaawabiitong, called for collective action and investment in diverse treatment pathways:

“The growing Mental Health and Addictions crisis is evolving to a point of being in the worst state we have ever seen, and we have to all work together as a collective to combine resources and address this issue. We have to support and continue to invest in the various forms of treatment and healing pathways that include both Traditional and Western approaches so we can ensure our Youth, our Elders, and all our people are being given the best chance to overcome this.”

Paul Derouard, Interim CEO of Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig, affirmed their support for the declaration and the need for culturally sensitive services:

“As a primary healthcare organization dedicated to serving Treaty 3 communities, we stand in full support of the declaration of a mental health and addictions state of emergency. This is a crucial step in acknowledging and addressing the significant challenges our communities face in these areas. Through collaborative efforts and swift action, we are committed to providing accessible, culturally sensitive support services to those in need. Together, with our partners and community members, we will work tirelessly to ensure that everyone receives the care and support necessary for healing and recovery.”

A Path Forward

Grand Council Treaty #3 is committed to fostering a supportive environment, particularly for the youth who represent the future of the Nation. Community leaders and health services are now working diligently to implement these resolutions and will continue to provide updates on the progress of these vital initiatives.

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