UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (far left) leads a First Nations solidarity rally.
MUSQUEAM TERRITORY, B.C. — The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has passed a forceful resolution imploring action by embattled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Columbia Premier John Horgan on the escalating Opioids crisis that is devastating First Nations communities. Declaring the Opioid Overdose Crisis to be a state of emergency, the UBCIC Chiefs Council resolution calls on the provincial government to launch a public inquiry into the influence of international organized crime syndicates in fueling the Opioid death-toll in the Native community.
Investigative reports by the CBC, Global News, and CTV into direct connections between the Opioid crisis and organized crime, money laundering, and the inflated real estate market in the province led the UBCIC to conclude that a public inquiry into those links “is the best way to learn the truth about a crisis that has claimed thousands of lives.” The resolution documents a Global News investigation that revealed, “criminal syndicates that control chemical factories in China are shipping narcotics, including fentanyl, to Vancouver, and are responsible for laundering the drug sales in British Columbia’s casinos and high-priced real estate, and transferring laundered funds back to Chinese factories to repeat this deadly trade cycle. Regulators believe approximately $1.7 billion from 2013 to 2017 has flowed through special B.C. Lottery Corp. high-roller accounts, with large amounts funded by loan sharks and criminal bank drafts.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould
The UBCIC recommends an investigation modelled after the Charbonneau Commission in Quebec.
While the Opioid crisis has affected every region of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are the four regions hardest hit. The devastating consequences of Opioids on First Nations communities has been highlighted in Evidence Synthesis – The Opioid Crisis in Canada (Belzak & Halverson), and in BC specifically, through the First Nations Health Authority reports. The dire findings reveal that: First Nations people are five times more likely than non–First Nations citizens to experience an Opioid-related overdose event, and three times more likely to die from an Opioid-related overdose; First Nations people are twice as likely to be dispensed an Opioid as non–First Nations citizens; and that on some reserves, an Opioid overdose is reported every two-hours.
The UBCIC Chiefs Council resolution supports the upcoming First Nations Opioid Conference, “Opioids: Wiping the Tears. Healing the Pain,” that will be held at the Grey Eagle Resort in Tsuut’ina Territory, Alberta, May 6-7, 2019, to outline a clear pathway of actions and recommendations for First Nations “coping with and remedying the crisis.” Organized by the Global Indigenous Council, the conference has been formulated in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). “The Government of Canada estimates that in the last two-years more than 9,000 Canadians have died because of the Opioid crisis. This death toll equates to approximately 20% of the total fatalities Canada suffered in nearly six-years of World War II,” said Tom Rodgers, the Opioid Conference Director, who was considered “the foremost Native American advocate, strategist and lobbyist” by the Obama White House.
“In our cities and towns, on our reserves and in our homes, in the last two-years we have lost 57 times more loved ones than Canada lost in the entire Afghanistan War,” continued Rodgers. “But we were not at war. Now we are with Big Pharma, and we intend to hold it accountable for the Opioids crisis and secure reparations for First Nations to invest in the healing and recovery of our communities.”
In addition to legal advice and strategy from specialists, the conference will feature prominent First Nations’ speakers. A forum will be held for victims of the Opioid catastrophe, and seminars will be conducted on the Opioid crisis in the context of historical trauma, the economic impact of the Opioid crisis on First Nations, and the cultural impact of the Opioid crisis on First Nations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau drew criticism at a 2018 Assembly of First Nations (AFN) meeting for describing First Nations’ desire to expeditiously confront growing crises such as Opioids and Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women as “impatience.” The UBCIC denounced Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments as reaffirmation of “the colonial attitude,” and petitioned the Prime Minister to issue a formal apology to Chief Judy Wilson, one of the three-member UBCIC Executive, “who was subjected to the Prime Minister’s dismissive and patronizing conduct” at that AFN gathering. According to the UBCIC, that pattern of behavior by Trudeau was “most recently displayed toward Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.” A member of the We Wai Kai Nation and former AFN Regional Chief, Wilson-Raybould served as Canada’s first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General before being transferred to Minister of Veterans Affairs. The First Nations’ leader resigned from Trudeau’s Cabinet, citing “veiled threats” and “sustained” pressure to aid SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian construction company allegedly favored by Trudeau. SNC-Lavalin faces criminal charges of bribery which, if proven, would make it ineligible to receive government contracts for a decade.
Chief Judy Wilson
“Prime Minister Trudeau must acknowledge that our people are dying due to corporate greed and the government’s failure to effectively act. We are being treated like ‘collateral damage’ in pharmaceutical manufacturers’ relentless quest for profits,” said Chief Judy Wilson. “The Opioid crisis is a new epidemic for our people. It is the latest attempt to eradicate us.”
Further information on the Opioid crisis and registration details for the conference can be found at: www.firstnationopioidhealing.ca
Union of British Columbia Indian Executive Chiefs – Chief Bob Chamberlin, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Chief Judy Wilson