On International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31), the CBC published an interactive online story that highlights the tragic loss of life due to the ongoing Toxic Drug Emergency in British Columbia.
Although First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) appreciates the efforts of the CBC and other media in bringing to light the importance of humanizing the stories of the toxic drug emergency, as well as the Indigenous contexts, it is equally important to maintain accuracy in reporting.
The FNHA was referenced in the opening, correctly pointing out that First Nations people continue to be disproportionately overrepresented in toxic drug poisoning deaths. However, the article conflated the terms “Indigenous" with “First Nations" and said that, “Indigenous people make up about 16 per cent of toxic drug deaths" despite representing only six per cent of the province's population.
In fact, First Nations people, who are one part of the umbrella term “Indigenous," referring to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, represent just over three per cent of the population in BC. This population alone represented more than 16 per cent of toxic drug poisoning deaths in 2022, and does not include data gathered about Métis and Inuit people.
As well, the article also stated that men are disproportionately impacted by this emergency, noting that, overall, about 80 per cent of those lost since April 2016 have been men. This is not accurate within the context of First Nations health data, and paints a picture that First Nations women are not subject to the same level of risk of toxic drug poisoning as men.
According to data collected by the FNHA, in 2022, more than 36 per cent of First Nations people who died were women. First Nations women died at 11.2 times the rate of other female BC residents during that time period.
The toxic drug emergency is a great threat to everyone, of all genders and ages, but it is especially concerning that First Nations women are dying in greater proportions and at higher rates than other women in BC.
Each one of these lives lost were loved, valued and are missed by their families, friends and communities. We invite Indigenous people who are grieving that loss to honour their loved one in a way that cherishes their memories in a respectful way: