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Touchwood First Nations address overdose deaths at public meeting

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Close to 200 people showed up at the Muskowekwan Bingo Hall on Monday to address the weekly drug-related deaths casting a shadow on their communities.

“I know communities have been making efforts on their own, but we feel a combined effort [is needed], in regards to the drug trafficking and supplying drugs in our communities,” expressed Leon McNab, justice program director of Touchwood Agency Tribal Council.

"We hear that it's not only happening in Touchwood, but across the province and across Canada."

The public meeting was called on behalf of Muskowekwan First Nation, asking all Touchwood Agency Tribal Council members to attend in hopes of finding solutions on saving both youth and adults from drug use and fatal overdoses.

The three other nations included were Kawacatoose, Day Star, and George Gordon First Nation.

"The four member nations of Touchwood, they're in crisis mode right now dealing with opioids and crystal meth, and it’s across our entire region,” said David Pratt, vice-chief Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).

“We're hear to listen to the leadership, the frontline workers, and to the membership, to take direction as we're moving forward on dealing with this."

Aside from leaders and chiefs speaking about the local issue, elders and residents voiced their concerns as well.

According to McNab, the main issue stems from the local drug supply and ongoing drug trafficking in the community.

“A lot of our young people are passing away due to overdoses with the drugs that they're taking, which relates to the people supplying, traffickers, it's causing a lot of death within our community,” he expressed.

During the meeting, people were given surveys and questionnaires to share their ideas and solutions to the ongoing drug crisis, specifically the use of crystal meth and fentanyl.

Based on the suggestion provided by FSIN, McNab said the four Touchwood councils will work towards passing a Band Council Resolution (BCR) to support their call for action.

"We're going to work with the FSIN, but first off we're going to put together the resolutions that are required and of course community safety plans,” said McNab.

“I know that they’ve already starting working on [community safety plans], but it’s just a matter of enforcing what plans are in place and what plans we have to develop.”

Pratt said all four nations presenting a BCR will help validate the need for outside help from the federal government.

“We want them to each pass a Band Council Resolution, calling Canada to make those critical investments,” the FSIN vice chief told CTV News.

“Also, letting them know that there’s a need here, that they are in crisis mode and are on the verge of declaring a state of emergency.”

Chiefs among all four First Nations are leaning towards declaring a State of Emergency. However, no decision has been made yet.

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