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First Nation communities in Chilcotin grieve 3 fatal drug poisonings

Tsideldel, Xeni Gwet’in chief say deaths happened at home in communities
As of March 31, 2024 BC Emergency Health Services has responded to 54 drug poisonings in the Williams Lake area. (Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo Williams Lake Tribune)

First Nations communities west of Williams Lake are grieving the loss of three community members due to drug poisonings recently.

Chief Otis Guichon Sr. of Tsideldel said two young individuals died early Saturday, April 4 in his small, rural community.

“They both left behind young children,” he said, noting the deaths are leaving him at a loss for words to say.

“We do have a good team on staff who do the best they can to help families in the community.”

There are a number of programs available in community for families and individuals to utilize, he added.

It is difficult when trying to help community members with addictions who are not ready to help themselves, he noted.

“All we can do is be there for them.”

On behalf of Chief and Council, Guichon extended his “deepest condolences to the families affected by this tragic loss.”

Xeni Gwet’in First Nation Chief Roger William said three weeks ago his community lost a 30-year-old individual to addiction who died at home in the community.

“Their addiction had them for a long time,” he said, noting the individual had children.

Xeni Gwet’in has counselling services and drug and alcohol programs and support for people to go for treatment and detox, however, there is a wait list, he said.

“I always say the 1862 Small Pox, the Indian Act, residential school and racism has impacted us, some of us we are doing good but at the same time a lot of our people are impacted and it even impacts good families.”

The Tsilhqot’in Nation continues to work on achieving its own authority for children and family services increasing the use of traditional language, ceremonies, gatherings, Tsilhqot’in laws, and education, he said.

“Our aboriginal title win on June 26, 2014 was a huge boost to that healing,” he added, noting this year there will be a three-year celebration a the Nemiah Valley Lodge on title lands to celebrated.

A lot of work and holding up youth as a nation continues and later this month seven Tsilhqot’in youth will travel to the United Nations meeting in New York with the chiefs.

Marilyn Charleyboy is the wellness and prevention coordinator overseeing child and family services for Tsideldel First Nation and an advisor on the jurisdiction team at the Tsilhqot’in National Government.

“We are in a different time, where we have to deal with things we’ve never been faced with,” she said. “We need to start taking responsibility for our families again and healing needs to happen. Our family systems are broken and it’s going to take time to rebuild those systems.”

BC Emergency Health Services provided Black Press with statistics so far in 2024 regarding the number of toxic drug poisoning events in Williams Lake.

There have been 17 in January, nine in February, 28 in March and fewer than five so far in April.

BCEHS paramedics and medical emergency call takers have saved the lives of many patients who have suffered adverse reactions to drug poisonings and overdoses, noted Jane Campbell with BCEHS in an emailed response.

“Together with our health partners and public safety organizations, we continue to evaluate the impact of our efforts and make decisions based on the tracking of these calls.”

Campbell noted the BC Coroners Service continues to report the vast majority of illicit drug toxicity deaths happen when people use alone because there is no one to call 9-1-1.

“At BCEHS, we stress the importance of not using alone, going slow, using the Connect by Lifeguard app if you do use alone, and calling 9-1-1 if you see someone who may be experiencing an overdose.”

BC Coroners Service breaks down toxicity deaths to the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap region only showing 25 deaths by the end of February 2024. There were 12 in January and 13 in February.

On March 25, 2024, Interior Health issued a drug poisoning alert for the Williams Lake area due to multiple drug poisonings including fatalities in Williams Lake related to down or fentanyl use. It remained in effect until April 1, IH confirmed Monday, April 8.

The bulletin encouraged people to get drugs checked and be aware of mixing drugs, including alcohol.

READ MORE: Drug poisonings alert issued for Williams Lake March 25

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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