'This is something we have to do': Montreal Lake Cree Nation opens crystal meth detox facility

A north central Saskatchewan Cree community is looking to address the crystal meth epidemic it's facing when it opened a detox centre on Monday. 

The band's health director told CBC in May that 600 of the roughly 1,200 Montreal Lake Cree Nation band members were addicted to crystal meth at the time. 

"We have a situation where a lot of people, they're in dire straights in terms of health, in terms of finances, in terms of everything else," Lionel Bird, the Montreal Lake Cree Nation's executive director for Child and Family Services told CBC Radio.

"This drug is just destroying our people, destroying the fabric of our community and also families — this has no boundaries." 

Bird said gang activity is a driver for the drug use in Montreal Lake and the drug use itself is driving some to consider suicide as their only way out. 

Bird said the facility opened earlier this week is different from other facilities across the country. 

"First, we do a 14 day acute medical detox [at Camp Hope in Montreal Lake], where if we need to, medication is utilized by the nurses, the RN's, the RPN's," Bird said.

"Following that, they would go to Little Red, where in Little Red, there would be six month stints there." 

The people who attend the facility will first spend time connecting with the lands to rid their bodies of toxins in their system and to prepare them to face the intergenerational traumas they may have experienced, like residential schools, sexual abuse and family violence issues.

Bird said it's those intergenerational issues that can make crystal meth such an appealing drug — it provides an escape to the issues, for at least a small period of time. 

The goal of the program is to help people help themselves, but also providing them with a chance to become employable in the future, while holding "their head up with respect."

Despite not getting much help in opening the facility from all levels of government, Bird said the Montreal Lake Cree Nation is rolling on, full steam ahead. 

"We're going to do it, regardless. This is something we have to do," Bird said.

"We may have to fund raise, we may have to do all these different things, but we're committed to helping our people, and whatever it takes."

Montreal Lake is 224 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.