Concerned by the high number of fentanyl overdoses on the mainland, Skidegate is hosting a band members’ forum aimed at preventing one here on Haida Gwaii.
Fentanyl is an opioid 100 times more potent than heroin, and a leading cause of B.C.’s record 914 deaths due to drug overdoses in 2016.
“It’s an avalanche of an issue, so we’re just trying to identify what pieces everybody is going to do,” said Billy Yovanovich, chief councillor of Skidegate.
The Skidegate Health Centre, RCMP, band council, families, and drug users each have a role to play in trying to prevent such overdoses, he said.
This spring, for example, the RCMP is expected to offer a local Crime Stoppers service — the first time Haida Gwaii residents will have access to the anonymous crime-reporting line.
Skidegate Band Council has also recently banished two people from other Haida Gwaii communities who were charged with drug trafficking. The next step may be to banish some of the drug users coming to Skidegate who are not band members.
“We’re just trying to cut down on traffic in our own community,” said Yovanovich.
“For non-band members to be in Skidegate is really a privilege, not a right. We’ve got some pushback from some people, but I’ve had lots of calls from people supporting the work that we’re doing, even from some of the users saying, ‘Well, what you’re doing is having an effect — things are slowing down.’”
The Feb. 23 forum will be a good opportunity for Skidegate councillors to hear what band members think of the plans so far, he said, and to recommend the way forward.
“If you asked us right now, is our council doing all it can to slow things down? I couldn’t answer that ‘Yes,’” said Yovanovich.
“So we have it on our agenda all the time now, and we’ve started a few initiatives. It’s baby steps, in the right direction.”