You can’t understand Canada’s overdose crisis without knowing the truth about this country – and that’s the story of colonization: a centuries-long effort to steal land and erase Indigenous peoples.
In April 2019, Garth and Thunder Bay podcast creator Ryan McMahon were chatting on the phone. Ryan said that some Indigenous communities are reticent about harm reduction and that Crackdown should look at that.
We’ve been talking about making this episode since our first editorial board meeting in 2018, when Chereece Keewatin, Shelda Kastor and Jeff Louden talked about how the overdose crisis affects them as Indigenous people. Since then Chereece died – and we blame racist drug war policies for that.
Shelda guided the work on this episode, mapping the connections between abstinence programs, the Red Road and Indigenous approaches harm reduction.
KEY FINDINGS from the work of our editorial board member Shelda Castor and our science advisor, Ryan McNeil.
- Canada’s drug overdose crisis disproportionately affects Indigenous Peoples differently owing to a legacy of colonialism, racism and intergenerational trauma.
- Disaggregated data on Indigenous people are needed to understand more clearly how Indigenous Peoples are affected by drug overdoses.
- Indigenizing harm reduction and addiction treatment must involve integrating cultural and traditional Indigenous values that align with the principles of harm reduction.
- Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples must include ending the war on drugs to address underlying structural conditions that produce drug-related harms, including overdose.
Some of the CALLS TO ACTION from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
18. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.
19. We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess long- term trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as: infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence, and the availability of appropriate health services.
21. We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools, and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.
We recommend Bob Joseph’s book “21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act.” The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and the 94 Calls to Action should be read by everyone. Chelsea Vowel’s book Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada is essential reading.
- An Act Further to Amend “The Indian Act,” Chapter Forty-Three of the Revised Statues. 1888.
- Ben, Leon W. 1991. “Wellness Circles: The Alkali Lake Model in Community Recovery Processes.” A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education, Northern Arizona University.
- Cariou, C. 1986. “Native Alcohol Workers See No End to the Problem.” Kainai News, April 25, 1986.
- FNHA. 2019 “First Nations Opioid Overdose Deaths Rise in 2018.”
- Giovannetti, Justin. 2016. “Alberta Reserves Struggle to Access Fentanyl Antidote.” The Globe and Mail. March 2016.
- Goodman, Ashley, Kim Fleming, Nicole Markwick, Tracey Morrison, Louise Lagimodiere, and Thomas Kerr. 2017. “‘They Treated Me like Crap and I Know It Was Because I Was Native’: The Healthcare Experiences of Aboriginal Peoples Living in Vancouver’s Inner City.” Social Science & Medicine, no. 178 (April): 87–94.
- Government of Canada. 1876. The Indian Act.
- Joseph, Bob. 2018. “A Look at First Nations Prohibition of Alcohol.” ictinc.ca.
- Joseph, Bob. 2018. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act. Indigenous Relations Press.
- Kelly, Doug. 2017. “The Hidden Complexities in Substance Abuse.” The Globe and Mail. August 25, 2017.
- Lavalley, Jennifer, Shelda Kastor, Jenna Valleriani, and Ryan McNeil. “Reconciliation and Canada’s Overdose Crisis: Responding to the Needs of Indigenous Peoples.” CMAJ. December 17, 2018.
- Lucas, Phil, dir. 1986. The Honour of All. Film. UCLA Film & Television Archive.
- Mail, Patricia D., and Linda J. Wright. 1989. “Point of View: Indian Sobriety Must Come from Indian Solutions.” Health Education 20 (5): 19–22.
- McMahon, Ryan. 2018. “Thunder Bay.” Podcast. Edited by Jesse Brown. CANADALAND.
- Narcotics Anonymous. 1996. “Bulletin #29: Regarding Methadone and Other Drug Replacement Programs.” na.org. 1996.
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2015. “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.”
- Willie, Elvin. 1989. “The Story of Alkali Lake.” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 6 (3–4): 167–74.
- Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society. Talking Circle Series: The healthcare experiences of aboriginal peoples living in the downtown eastside; National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health. (2009).
Crackdown is produced on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
You can support us at Patreon.com/crackdownpod.
This month, editorial board member Shelda Kastor provided invaluable advice and direction to me and the production team. Thank you Shelda.
We’d also like to thank Esk’etemc for letting us use clips of their film and Trey Helten and Shawn “Heph” Hefele, whose mural is in the art for this month’s show.
Our Editorial Board is:
And Chereece Keewatin. RiP Chereece.
Crackdown’s senior producer is Sam Fenn. Our producers are Alexander Kim and Lisa Hale.
Our science advisor is Ryan McNeil. Assistant Professor & Director of Harm Reduction Research in the Yale School of Medicine.
Garth Mullins is Crackdown’s host, writer and executive producer. You can follow him on twitter @garthmullins.
Original score written and performed by Sam Fenn, James Ash, Kai Paulson and me. Our theme song was written by Garth and Sam with accompaniment from Dave Gens and Ben Appenheimer.
We make this podcast with funds from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. And from our Patreon supporters.