A rise in the number of drug overdoses and deaths on Walpole Island has led acting Chief Burton Kewayosh, with the full support of council, to declare a state of emergency.
Walpole Island First Nation (WIFN) has been in a state of emergency regarding COVID-19 since March 23, 2020.
The second emergency declaration will mobilize internal and external resources in the areas of law enforcement, security, mental health, community wellness supports, and bridge security.
The declaration will also facilitate access to funding from outside agencies.
“We are grappling with a drug pandemic that has affected communities across Canada,” Kewayosh said in a media release. “We have seen the evidence of harmful drug addictions and the deterioration of mental health across our community, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend.”
He added the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools across the country have not helped.
“This has been compounded with traumas triggered by the uncovering of mass graves at residential schools. We cannot begin to address this problem without acknowledging that this is a spiritual impasse that is at the core of our community at this time. Healing must take place across our community,” Kewayosh said.
Action will be taken to stop the supply of drugs, officials said. Steps will be taken to ensure that wellness supports are in place that members can access who are struggling with mental health issues and addiction.
A bridge checkpoint will be put back in place.
“Walpole Island First Nation will work with available services and agencies to expunge the flow of illicit drugs into our community,” said Walpole Island CEO James Jenkins.
The short-term plan is to focus on the supply of illicit drugs and to support those with addictions. The long-term plan will focus on quality of life for youth and access to health and recreational opportunities, which will include but not be limited to sports, land-based learning, and cultural programs.