FNHA Statement on the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel Report


This statement may contain sensitive content and could be triggering. For mental health or crisis support, please contact the KUU-US Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717 or visit the FNHA's website for additional support services.

The BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel (DRP) released a report Wednesday (Nov. 1, 2023) that includes important facts and recommendations that are critically important for First Nations individuals and communities coping with the toxic drug emergency.

Entitled “An Urgent Response to a Continuing Crisis," the report is a collaborative call to take immediate action in order to save lives now.

As a panel member, Acting Chief Medical Officer for the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Dr. Nel Wieman, agrees with the statement in the report that the current approach taken in tackling the toxic drug emergency in British Columbia (BC) is not working and “needs to change."

While the FNHA and our health system partners have made numerous efforts to provide services and supports intended to address this emergency, they have tragically not yet led to a significant reduction in the number of people dying or experiencing serious injury due to an increasingly volatile and unregulated toxic drug supply.

While First Nations people represent just 3.3 per cent of the province's population, they were overrepresented in 16.4 per cent of the toxic drug poisoning deaths in 2022. First Nations people died at 5.9 times the rate of other BC residents during that time period, an increase from 5.4 times the rate over the same time period in 2021. As well, First Nations women died at 11.2 times the rate of other female BC residents in 2022.

The one-size-fits-all approach does not work in either harm reduction or First Nations communities. Any model that is implemented must be informed by, and responsive to, the unique needs and circumstances of different communities and populations.

The FNHA calls on the provincial government to uphold its commitment to UNDRIP and DRIPA principles by engaging with and consulting First Nations communities. Moving forward, FNHA will work with our health system partners, including the provincial government, to ensure that the voices of Indigenous Peoples and communities are heard and that any actions are taken in a good way that aligns with FNHA's overarching perspectives on Indigenous harm reduction.

FNHA's harm reduction response can be found here: fnha.ca/harmreduction.

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