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February 29, 2012
Ottawa– Liberal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett made the following statement today on the removal of OxyContin and the addictions crisis in many First Nations communities:
“First Nations face significantly lower mental health and addictions outcomes compared with the rest of Canada, and yet federally supported services for First Nations mental health and addictions treatment remain underfunded, inaccessible and are not always culturally competent.The removal of OxyContin from the Canadian market threatens to exacerbate this problem, especially in northern and remote First Nations, some of which are already battling widespread opioid addictions and have declared states of emergency. In Northern Ontario for example, Matawa First Nations has reported that 25% of the population is opioid dependent, and the rate is even higher in Sioux Lookout Zone and Cat Lake First Nation, at 36% and 70%, respectively.
Stephen Harper must take responsibility for his total failure to address the addictions crisis. The Conservative government must take immediate steps to provide emergency services for those suffering from OxyContin withdrawal, and work in partnership with First Nations on a comprehensive approach to improved mental wellness, including access to community-based, centres for health and wellness that offer healing appropriate to the cultures and experiences of multigenerational residential school survivors.”
Liberal Health critic Dr. Hedy Fry, continued:
“The crisis is not limited to First Nations reserves; we are at the onset of a public health crisis as Oxycontin use has led to an increase in the use of other drugs such as heroin, as well as concerns surrounding the use of injectables and the contraction of HIV or Hepatitis.
Provinces and municipalities will bear the brunt of this crisis, yet Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have no plan to assist those with addictions and protect public health.
The Conservative government must start by ensuring that it upholds its responsibility for the healthcare and wellbeing of not only First Nations, but members of the Canadian Forces, veterans, the RCMP, as well as refugee protection claimants and inmates of federal penitentiaries.”
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