Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jan 2018
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Roland Cotton
Page: A8


The opioid crisis affecting Canada and the world has surfaced in a
significant dangerous way here in Lethbridge. This rampant drug abuse
involving fentanyl, labelled as the "new alcohol," is being driven by
factors that can and should be controlled by our own community
activities or lack thereof.

Much is being done to deal with the crisis, i.e. safe Injection site
and other initiatives. Nevertheless, little is being done to deal with
the underlying causes driving this crisis.

Currently, our own Lethbridge Shelter is accommodating homeless
citizens, many of whom are affected by addictions, homelessness, job
loss, poverty. Many are selling drugs to put food in their bellies. On
average, 65 per cent of the clientele are aboriginal. The shelter has
become a refuge for drug dealers and users banished from the Blood
Reserve - many as a direct result of the new "trespass" policy on the
reserve. The Blood Tribe does not want them, and neither does Lethbridge.

The Blood Tribe has a fiduciary responsible for their people.
Banishing them to the next community does not solve the problem. They
need to train and send front-line workers, addictions counsellors, to
the streets of Lethbridge to work with the community. They need to be
part of developing programs.

The Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre no longer houses the
Resource Centre. The City's social development, in its wisdom, has
removed this vital service, leaving only an emergency shelter.
Involvement of the Blood Tribe and local agencies are no longer
attached to this location.

The Blackfoot women's lodge, YWCA and the shelter are housing the
families and children of those who find themselves banished due to
drug pushing and drug use. The Blood Tribe, along with other reserves,
need to get together and face this crisis head on, in order to reduce
the number of overdose deaths.

Instead of sending tribe members home in caskets, send them home with
education and help for the reserve. A change in focus is the only
answer to making the situation better. This must be acted on now. We
are in an emergency situation.

Roland Cotton

President, Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society Lethbridge
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