UBCIC Stands with Families and Calls for Action on Overdose Awareness Day

News Release
August 31, 2023

UBCIC Stands with Families and Calls for Action on Overdose Awareness Day

(xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/ Vancouver, B.C. – August 31, 2023) Today, UBCIC grieves with thousands of families devastated by the overdose crisis and urges municipal, provincial, and federal governments to put aside their lethal political squabbling and take urgent, comprehensive, and coordinated action to save lives and support First Nations self-determination over their health and well-being.

For over seven years, this public health emergency has ravaged BC, becoming the leading cause of death for people aged 10-59 and reducing the overall life expectancy in the province. First Nations people continue to be drastically over-represented in the rippling harms of this crisis and constantly climbing fatalities, dying at 5.9 times the rate of other BC residents.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, declared "The failure of the federal, provincial and municipal governments to address this crisis with urgency is a stark reminder of the ongoing negligence experienced by First Nations communities and other marginalized populations. We refuse to be ignored any longer – our future is at stake. We call for a whole-of-government approach and adequate funding to address the intertwined roots of this crisis, including lack of adequate housing, poverty and racism as well as the need for substance use and mental health services and supports."

“At this dire moment, politicians in BC are running stigma filled campaigns that stoke fears about people who use drugs and blaming opposing parties and other levels of government for this longstanding crisis, instead of dedicating their energy to ending the torrent of preventable deaths,” continued Chief Don Tom, UBCIC Vice President. “The deaths are tallied each month, with my beloved brother added to the fatalities statistics this summer, but we reject this normalization and stand firm in our call for justice, healing, and systemic change. This crisis and the disproportionate harms to First Nations will only end when governments prioritize people over politics and live up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by supporting First Nations self-determination with direct funding to enable community-based, tailored responses that fit the diverse needs of our people.”

Chief Marilyn Slett, UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer, concluded “We urgently call on the federal, provincial, and municipal governments to work in coordination to fund a full spectrum of culturally safe, voluntary, evidenced based services. We reject the false dichotomy of harm reduction versus treatment, and demand holistic and comprehensive services that meet all people who use drugs or alcohol where they are in their wellbeing journey, whether their current goal is sobriety or survival.”


Media inquiries:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President, 604-290-6083
Chief Marilyn Slett, Secretary-Treasurer, 250-957-7721

UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

For more information, please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca
For more information on substance use and services for First Nations people, please visit https://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/mental-wellness-and-substance-useFor more information on the August 31, 2023, International Overdose Awareness Day March, please see the attached poster.

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