Addiction treatment facility among topics discussed at Tłı̨chǫ gathering

·3 min read
Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty listens to comments and questions from citizens during the Tłı̨chǫ Annual Gathering in Whatì in mid-July 2022.  (Luke Carroll/CBC - image credit)
Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty listens to comments and questions from citizens during the Tłı̨chǫ Annual Gathering in Whatì in mid-July 2022. (Luke Carroll/CBC - image credit)

Concerns about drugs and alcohol in Tłı̨chǫ communities have both citizens and the government discussing the possibility of building a wellness centre to treat addiction.

The Tłı̨chǫ Annual Gathering was held in Whatì this week, and attendees were given the chance to share their thoughts about health and wellness with leaders during a question and answer period.

Joe Rabesca is a former Tłı̨chǫ grand chief and a key contributor to the land claim and negotiation process. He said he is currently a special advisor with the Tłı̨chǫ government.

He said drugs and alcohol have been robbing communities of their young.

Rabesca said an upcoming project the Tłı̨chǫ leaders are considering is a treatment centre that would be on the land and in a central location for Behchokǫ̀, Gamètì, Wekweètì and Whatì.

He supports the idea, but said the government needs to find a realistic way to finance it.

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

"I know it's going to take a lot of work, yes you can do the things you want to do, but first you need to find money to do it," he said.

The Tłı̨chǫ agreement gives the nation responsibility over health care, but Rabesca said the cost of building and operating a treatment facility could be significant and requires planning to ensure the government doesn't fall into a deficit.

Such facilities have been a regular discussion in the Legislative Assembly, but the territory's health minister has said it's not a priority.

There are currently no treatment centres in the N.W.T., and those needing these services have to travel south.

Investment Corp looking for a new president

The search for a Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation president was another matter that was discussed at the gathering.

Ted Blondin, a director with the corporation, said they're still working on a job description for the unique position. He said the role involves working with community leadership and various businesses, and the successful candidate would need to know how to read financial statements.

"The president there would be Tłı̨chǫ," Blondin told attendees of another open forum.

"That position will be paid a lot of money, so we want to make sure that [person] is well prepared for the work that we're asking them to do," he said. "We don't want to set them up for failure."

Promoting culture

Tłı̨chǫ culture was on display throughout the four-day gathering.

Some participants travelled to Whatì through the Trails of our Ancestors canoe trip, a journey that was also showcased at a booth set up by the Tłı̨chǫ Government's cultural practices manager, Tony Rabesca.

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

"We need to make sure the cultural programs are well designed," he said.

"It's very vital that [Tłı̨chǫ people] understand what we're doing, but at the same time, if they have any ideas of things they'd like to see happen, we're here to listen and work with them."

Risks of smoking and STI's 

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

Alana Kronstal, a manager of social marketing, health and wellness for the Department of Health and Social Services, said tobacco is a leading cause of cancer in the N.W.T.

Kronstal and other health workers were invited to the community by local health staff to educate attendees on the risks of smoking. They had two pig lungs on display — one that had been exposed to tobacco and another that hadn't.

Kronstal credited the work of April Alexis, a community health representative with the Tłı̨chǫ Government, for organizing the visit.

Although the Tłı̨chǫ Annual Gathering wrapped up on Thursday, visitors will be in the community all weekend for a handgames tournament.

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