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Yukon First Nation declares state of emergency over opioids ‘terrorizing’ community

A small Yukon First Nation says it’s dealing with an “opioid emergency” that is terrorizing its members.
Lindsay Ellis, Yukon RCMP criminal investigation officer, addresses reporters during a March 12 media briefing about a double homicide in Mayo. Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News

A small Yukon First Nation says it’s dealing with an “opioid emergency” that is terrorizing its members.

The Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation in Mayo, 400 kilometres north of Whitehorse, has declared a state of emergency and called for a meeting with officials in the Yukon government, the RCMP and the Village of Mayo to develop an action plan to protect its members.

“The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun is dealing with an opioid emergency that is terrorizing the public in Mayo, including (the nation’s) citizens and families, with violence, crime, overdoses and death and this emergency must be addressed immediately in order to protect the lives of (its) citizens, ensure public safety and promote community wellness,” the declaration says.

The emergency declaration says the action plan could include increased law enforcement within its territory, limiting when non-citizens can be on settlement land, check stops, or the eviction of tenants in First Nations housing who are engaged in illegal activities.

It says the plan could also include “action to warn and protect people who use drugs,” and the availability of treatment opportunities for its citizens.

The declaration comes days after a double homicide of two Whitehorse men whose bodies were found on a main roadway belonging to the First Nation.

Yukon RCMP said in a statement Monday about the deaths that police were “aware of the impact of the substance use emergency on the community of Mayo,” and were actively supporting community safety.

Nacho Nyak Dun is not the first Yukon Indigenous nation to sound alarms about drugs in their community. In January 2022, the Carcross Tagish First Nation declared a state of emergency following multiple illicit drug-related deaths.

The Yukon declared its own substance use health emergency that same month in response to a surge in substance use-related harms, including what it called “a drastic increase in opioid-related deaths.”

Yukon chief coroner Heather Jones reported that in 2022, the territory had 25 deaths attributed to toxic substances, 20 of which involved opioids. The territory’s population is about 43,000.

Jones said the overdose toll puts Yukon at the top of Canada’s per capita illicit drug-related deaths.

—By The Canadian Press