The Department of Justice is shedding little light on what measures it is taking to improve security at the North Slave Correctional Complex after an inmate used fentanyl at the jail late last year.The Nov. 29 incident came less than a week after a string of eight fentanyl-related overdoses happened in Yellowknife within 48 hours, prompting an urgent public health warning in which officials described some of the overdoses as “big near misses.”
At the time of the incident, Blair VanMetre, assistant director of facility operations, confirmed in an e-mail statement that the inmate took fentanyl but did not overdose.
Department spokesperson Sue Glowach also said the department was investigating and RCMP were informed about the incident.
According to RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon, the Yellowknife division has no information on file about a fentanyl incident at the jail last Nov. 29.
Last week, Yellowknifer asked what the department is doing as a result of the fentanyl incident to improve security at the jail and prevent contraband from entering the facility.
“We are not releasing any information that could jeopardize the safety of the inmates, and it is counter-productive to publicize search methods for contraband,” stated department spokesperson Sue Glowach in an e-mail statement.
No report was produced from the investigation, according to Glowach, but “very thorough” daily reports are kept at the jail. She said the department could not provide a copy of these reports.
When Yellowknifer initially asked for an update, the justice department appeared confused about the series of events, providing conflicting information and declining an interview request with other department staff.
“The incident you are referring to was never confirmed as ‘fentanyl’ but an opioid incident,” Glowach stated on April 7. “There was no formal report made and no confirmation of fentanyl.”
Glowach later agreed the incident was confirmed to be fentanyl-related after being shown an e-mail confirmation she provided to Yellowknifer last year.
She then explained the issue was that no drug was found during a search of the inmate’s cell at the time and “the inmate responded to the naloxone therapy, which typically is used for fentanyl.”
Naloxone is a medication used to halt the effects of an opioid overdose.
According to VanMetre’s statement last year, medical staff at NSCC are “able to address fentanyl incidents and administer naloxone if there is an overdose.”
Yellowknifer sought clarification this month about whether the use of naloxone meant the inmate overdosed in November.
She then stated in an e-mail April 20 that she had misspoken, and that naloxone was not administered and the person did not overdose.
Yellowknifer requested an interview with staff from NSCC or corrections, but was denied.
“There is nothing further to say on this subject,” Glowach said.