These past few years, Rainy River First Nations has seen young and old become addicted to prescription drugs.
Although efforts have been strenuously taken this past year, by chief and council, to consult and seek direction from its community membership on drug dependence, the community faces an uphill battle against Government of Canada policy directives to prescribe opiate-based pain-killers as opposed to non-opiate ones.
Oxycodone is a narcotic frequently used as a pain reliever for the treatment of moderate to severe short-term and long-term pain, as well as palliative care for the terminally ill. It produces an opiate-like effect similar to morphine in all aspects, including its abuse and dependence.
There are three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly abused: opioids, which are most often prescribed to treat pain (such as codeine), oxycodone (Oxycontin and Percocet), and morphine (Kadian and Avinza).
So, why is the practice of prescribing opiate-based pain-killers to status reserve Indians going unnoticed or unchallenged by the political leadership? Are not political offices such as Treaty 3, the Chiefs of Ontario, and the Assembly of First Nations equipped with certain authority and capacity to guard and advocate for the interests of First Nations?
As aboriginal people, we continuously have endured the effects of ill-conceived policy directives instituted by various government departments. Today, our people are being assaulted by prescription drugs as another deadly form of dependency that’s been created to run its course amongst the aboriginal population.
So where is the political leadership on this issue? Where is the protection and oversight we expect from organizations (native and non-native) that were created to watch over the interests of citizens?
Where does this duty to consult stand with Canada when it comes to consulting First Nation leadership on policy directives to the medical profession to prescribe opiate-based pain-killers or the alternative to treaty status Indians?
The peril of our people continues to worsen with every day passed without action from our elected leadership. How many more have to suffer and perish before government health policies are checked and held accountable?
Perhaps this is just another industry that was created to ride on the addictive backs of Indian people. But one thing is certain, we don’t have to accept or welcome this industry onto our communities or our people’s lives—and we must stand together to stop it now.