Health officials in the Northwest Territories say they’re responding to an increase in opioid toxicity deaths.
Chief Coroner Garth Eggenberger says there were six such deaths in the territory last year, all in the town of Hay River.
He says in each case, the person was using drugs alone and did not have naloxone, a medication used to reverse an overdose, on-site.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola says five of the deaths involved fentanyl or carfentanil.
Eggenberger says it was largely crack cocaine that was contaminated with the powerful opioids.
He believes people purchased the drugs outside of the territory and were unaware they contained fentanyl or carfentanil.
“The toll on families is tremendous,” he said Tuesday.
Kandola said the drug poisonings are a “complete anomaly” for Hay River. She called the town, which had a population of 2,380 in 2021 and is near the Alberta boundary, a gateway to the North.
She issued three public health advisories last year warning of the presence of fentanyl and carfentanil in the town’s illicit drug supply.
“This is a serious public health issue,” Kandola said.
“It doesn’t matter if people have been using for a long time or recreational users are trying for the first time, everyone is at risk when they use illicit drugs because you just don’t know what they’re contaminated with.”
She said anyone who consumes drugs should not do so alone and recommends not mixing substances, starting with small amounts and keeping at least two naloxone kits nearby.
The federal government says fentanyl is 20 to 40 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Carfentanil is about 100 times stronger than fentanyl.
The number of opioid toxicity deaths in the N.W.T. has fluctuated in recent years.
There were five such deaths in 2016, one in 2017, two in 2018, one in 2019, and three in both 2020 and 2021. There has been one suspected overdose in 2023 so far.
The last confirmed opioid-related death reported in Hay River before 2022 was in 2020.
Kandola said her staff will meet with local leaders, community members, service providers and non-government organizations in Hay River to develop a targeted public awareness campaign.
Monica Piros, director of child, family and community wellness for the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, manages three non-medical programs that are responding to the drug crisis. She said they have distributed naloxone kits, raised awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and carfentanil and offered support to people with addictions.
Erin Griffiths, chief executive officer of the authority, said addressing the problem will require a co-ordinated and tailored response.
“We know our community best and we know what’s going to work,” she said. “I think our traditional approaches to how we support folks in our community no longer address the issues that we’re currently facing.”
Naloxone kits are available at clinics, pharmacies, health centres and hospitals, among other locations across the territory.
Other supports in the N.W.T. include the community counselling program, help lines, land-based treatment programs and peer support and aftercare initiatives.
A report by the Auditor General of Canada published in May found the three health and social services authorities in the territory were not adequately providing residents with accessible, co-ordinated and culturally safe addictions prevention and recovery services.
Respondents to an addictions recovery survey published in 2021 reported high levels of satisfaction with available programs but said they want more services, particularly in communities and regional centres.
The last treatment centre in the N.W.T. was closed in 2013. Territorial residents can access residential treatment facilities in several provinces.
The territorial government is working to establish a medical detox program.
— By Emily Blake in Yellowknife
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Holocaust strikes our very being
To be a Jew is not something special,
being a human being is normal.
Dealing with prejudice, hatred, and oppressive action,
now that’s something special for the Jewish Nation.
Oppression, hatred, and genocide besides,
is not just a Jewish person’s situation.
Armenian, Cambodian and Jewish Peoples deal,
with a national eradication event.
People of the world unit,
genocide is an international delight.
Oppress your people, crush opposition too.
The elites of the world are making exceptions for you.
Don’t be weak, allowing excuses to be made,
but lift your hands in justice’s cruel wave.
Hatred knows no reasonability, it knows no mercy.
Hatred, oppression, and prejudice need no exception.
Long ago Jews were murdered by the millions,
Cambodians died at the hands of their neighbors.
Palestine still walks within the borders of other nations,
and peace is nowhere to be found, my friend.
If your arms are in righteous ways demand justice for all,
for the people who hate will not see our peaceful ways.
A gun, a bayonet, and a saber be brought,
for the right to justice begins today,
and ends with blood if the opposition has any say.
Gandhi spoke of peaceful ways,
while Martin Luther Jr surrendered his life. to the cause.
Young blacks die each and every day,
while the power of prejudice wins the day.
My first lifts in anger that is for sure,
while the average person just shrugs this day.
But the goose-stepping troops may one day march on,
and the ignorance that prevails will let them carry on.
Open our eyes to the wrongs before us,
clear our minds and accept what bothers us.
Injustice is a prevailing horrid thing,
and ONLY YOU CAN BRING IT TO AN END.
Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care
The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.
Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.
The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.
During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.
But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.
Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.
The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.
But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.
Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.
Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
Singh meeting with Trudeau about private health care ahead of sit-down with premiers
Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.
“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.
The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.
Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.
While health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, Singh believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.
“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health-care,” Singh said.
“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”
The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.
On Saturday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said his Liberal government will ensure people don’t use their credit cards for health-care services and health care will remain universally public.
Singh is also expected to request an emergency House of Commons debate on the privatization of health care Monday afternoon.
If the request is granted, the debate could go ahead as early as Monday evening.
Health care is a top priority for the leader as members of Parliament return to the House Monday following a holiday break.
Singh spent some of that time away holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
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