Manitoba First Nation calls state of emergency over ‘string of deaths’

A state of emergency has been declared in a small Manitoba First Nation.

“We are declaring a state of emergency following a string of deaths in our community,” said Chief Shirley Ducharme of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, in a news release.

“The root causes of our emergency come from centuries of colonial impacts resulting in addictions, reactions to trauma and mental health issues.”

As part of the emergency announcement, Ducharme said the Nation is calling on the provincial and federal government for support to address the issue.

“We can’t wait any longer. We are dealing with emergencies and tragedy on a daily basis here it seems. Our people are dying and as leadership, we have to do something,” said Ducharme.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) has offered support in the form of its mobile crisis response team.

“This is not a time for words. This is a time for action,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee in a news release.

Settee said the response team will work directly with families that have experienced trauma.

“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.”

As part of the state of emergency, the First Nation has also called on the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) to create and implement an action plan that focuses on immediate, medium- and long-term needs.

“AMC stands with Chief Shirley Ducharme and O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation as they declare a state of emergency over the numerous deaths in their First Nation within a short period of time,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick in a news release.

CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the province about any potential plans to help the community.

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