'Our people are dying': Manitoba First Nation declares state of emergency
A remote northern Manitoba First Nation has declared a state of emergency following the deaths of three people in the community over the past two weeks.
"We've seen the hurt and pain suffered by our First Nation and we can't wait any longer. We are dealing with emergencies and tragedy on a daily basis here it seems," said Chief Shirley Ducharme of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, a community of just over 1,000 people at South Indian Lake, about 130 kilometres northwest of Thompson.
"Our people are dying and as leadership, we have to do something."
She is calling for the federal and provincial governments to provide immediate help in the form of crisis supports for people battling trauma, addiction and mental health issues.
"As we try to navigate what the problems are … we try and gather our thoughts together and support our members. Everybody is impacted," Ducharme said.
She is also urging the province to limit the hours of operation for the local ferry to control the flow of alcohol entering the community.
People have turned to drugs and alcohol to relieve their pain during the crisis, but the substance abuse just creates a domino effect and causes more problems in the community, she said.
"We've lost community members and we now see the escalation and violence."
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakinak, a political advocacy organization that represents 26 First Nations in the province's north, has deployed a mobile crisis response team to assist O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation.
"They work directly with families who have experienced trauma and will be a part of a response that includes other entities," MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a statement.
"We are also going to assist our member First Nation with their call for more housing by advocating on their behalf federally and asking the province to limit the hours of their ferry to control the flow of alcohol into their community."
Ducharme also wants a healing centre built in her community, so people can get help closer to home
"There is not enough supports and resources available in our community for our community members to heal," she said.
They travel to larger centres for care, but the wait can be anywhere from six months to a year to get in and "when they come back from the treatment centre, they fall back into the cycle again, because there is nothing here for them as supports to continue with the ongoing healing that they need," Ducharme said.
She has reached out to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to request its help in designing, developing and implementing a community action plan to address the immediate and long-term needs of the community.
"It's going to be a longtime journey that we all need for this whole community," Ducharme said.