Manitoba First Nations Declare a State of Emergency over Drug Crisis

Seven Manitoba First Nations have declared a state of emergency in response to rising substance abuse; resulting in growing crime rates and increased suicides.

According to CTV News, Chiefs from the Birdtail Sioux, Dakota Tipi, Long Plain, Roseau River Anishinabe, Sandy Bay Ojibwaym Swan Lake, and Waywayseecappo First Nations made the declaration to raise awareness about the rise in drug abuse among their communities, including the use of opioids, crack cocaine and methamphetamine.

There are about 20,000 people in the affected communities.

“The rise in substance abuse, growing crime rates and increase in suicides are shared concerns in our communities,” Chief Kenneth Chalmers, Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council chairperson said in a news release.

“In the last year in my community, 60 per cent of our children born were put on morphine after birth because of the addictions of the mothers,” – Ken Chalmers

Although the chiefs said they’ll be working to combat the crisis through a new strategy of education, prevention, and enforcement, they’re calling for government action at the provincial and federal levels to help in creating an addiction treatment facility.

“We need a treatment centre in our communities,” Francine Meeches, chief at Swan Lake First Nation, told CTV Winnipeg. “[In] one of our communities, somewhere, we need healing centres. Somebody owes us that.”

The chiefs have also pledged to work with police in preventing drugs from coming into communities and exile band members who are caught selling drugs.