Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

OVERDOSES CALLED ALARMING – Bronte Renwick-Shields, the executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions, is seen in the safe injection site front reception and waiting area in September.

Blood Ties ‘heartbroken’ by deaths from opioids overdoses

The news that seven more people have died in the past few months during the Yukon’s ongoing opioid crisis has rocked the territory.

By Whitehorse Star on November 30, 2021

The news that seven more people have died in the past few months during the Yukon’s ongoing opioid crisis has rocked the territory.

“Blood Ties is heartbroken to hear of an additional seven Yukoners lost to overdose,” said Bronte Renwick-Shields, the executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions.

“Each of these people represents a loved one, family member, friend and valued member of our community, and our deepest condolences go out to those who are grieving these losses.

“It is devastating and deeply concerning to hear of the increasing numbers of overdose deaths in the Yukon,” she said.

Chief coroner Heather Jones reported Monday that 21 Yukoners have died from opioid overdoses since last Jan. 1.

All the deaths involved opioids in various forms of fentanyl, and a large percentage involved cocaine.

Since the spring of 2016, there have been 54 Yukon deaths from illicit drug use.

Blood Ties operates the government’s supervised consumption site, which opened approximately two months ago on Sixth Avenue near Cook Street.

“There are solutions to this crisis, and now is the time to take brave action,” Bronte Renwick-Shields said.

“As we continue to see an alarming rate of overdose death in the Yukon, we know that overdose affects us all, and that as a community, we need to come together to end this crisis.

“We need to work together to end the stigma that people who use drugs experience in our community so that people can feel safe to reach out to supports.” she added.

“We need to expand access to opioid agonist therapy programs in rural communities and safe supply access throughout Yukon,” Bronte Renwick-Shields said.

“We need to stop criminalizing a health crisis and decriminalize substance use so that people who use drugs and their loved ones can call 911 without fear of being criminalized.”

Annie Blake, the NDP MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, said much the same thing Monday in the legislature.

She called on the Yukon government to declare a public health state of emergency to deal with the crisis.

“It’s beyond alarming,” she said. “There’s no time for more excuses and empty promises. Too many Yukoners have died.

“(Monday), we learned that the Yukon’s rate of opioid-related death has surpassed B.C. It means that the Yukon is now the jurisdiction with the most opioid-related deaths per capita in Canada,” Blake noted.

“This is not a record that any province or territory wants to hold. Opioid deaths now represent more than one in five deaths that are investigated by the coroner this year.”

There is only one word for it, she said: a tragedy.

“The people of Mayo have sent us a plea for help, but we know that every community in the Yukon is grappling with this,” she said.

“When will the government declare a public health emergency in the Yukon to help fight this devastating opioid crisis?”

While the government is working on providing a safe supply for drug users in Whitehorse, Blake added, the same program hasn’t made its way into the smaller communities, such as Mayo.

She demanded the government make it a goal to do so by the end of the year, but received no solid promises.

Blake also filed a notice of motion calling on the government to decriminalize all recreational drugs.

The motion read “that this House urges the Government of Yukon to apply for an exemption under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act to decriminalize personal use of all illegal drugs in the Yukon.”

Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee did not dispute the notion the situation is a crisis.

“It’s nothing less than a medical crisis,” she told the assembly.

McPhee said she isn’t opposed to the idea of declaring a public health emergency. She called it another tool to be used, but added the situation requires a multi-government collaboration.

“It’s something to be discussed,” she said.

Renwick-Shields said Blood Ties “encourages anyone ingesting, snorting or injecting their drugs to utilize the supervised consumption site in Whitehorse.

Naloxone, drug-checking and overdose prevention education are available at Blood Ties at 405 Ogilvie St, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, at the supervised consumption site from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and on the Outreach Van every night of the week from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., she noted.

“As stated in the coroner’s report, we have seen incidents of overdose where increasing amounts of naloxone are required to respond,” Renwick-Shields said.

“At this time, we encourage people who use drugs or who are likely to witness an overdose to carry more than one naloxone kit and to ensure that they are trained and comfortable administering this life saving medication.”

Comments (20)

Up 0 Down 0

Chuck Farley on Dec 6, 2021 at 4:06 pm

My Opinion - Blood Ties is an industry living off of addicts; if you open your eyes and ears you will realize the opioid casualties are the young; 20-30s and are nowhere near the safe injection site. They are at home, or friends places. Also, addiction does not discriminate based on class; you will find upper middle class, professionals who have addictions and use these safe injection sites and then go on about their day.

Up 3 Down 3

Darrell lewis on Dec 6, 2021 at 12:46 pm

Wow, so many saints among us. None of you drink alcohol which kills or smokes or overeats or doesn’t exercise or speeds in their cars. Yet you all have the audacity to look down upon your fellow man. I grew up in the Yukon and inherited from the good folk the ability to recognize I am no better than any other.
Safe injection allows people to do what they are going to in a safe place. Free drugs takes away the stigma but mostly puts the drug dealers out of business that is what free drugs are all about. Not about getting high for free as the naysayers jump too.
The people who have no compassion simply have no compassion. Please stay out of the conversation. You don’t want to help you want to crucify and fortunately most Yukoners want to help.
There is a solution. We all need to work together to find it in a positive way. Let’s do that.

Up 37 Down 15

Blind Dog’s Can Find Bones Too! on Dec 1, 2021 at 11:04 am

A Real Crisis - You’re right. The Real Crisis is modern day Liberal Governments. If we dealt with that crisis properly there would be no others.

Up 35 Down 7

John on Dec 1, 2021 at 10:50 am

What we need is adequate Health Care.

There are far more deaths from other diseases and a lack of care that make opiod deaths pale in comparison. Families are suffering from this lack of care. That is where we need to put our focus. We have limited resources and we have folks screaming for medical treatment now only to be told "you have to wait your turn" - "oh - how long?" - "oh about 1-2 years". In the meantime we have seniors "who are dying at home alone". Other people can not get cancer treatments because everyone had their curlies in a knot over COVID - many have died waiting. WAITING! If there is a CRISIS it is our Health Care first and foremost. So before we run off in a tangent lets get our house in order first!

Up 33 Down 22

moose101 on Dec 1, 2021 at 7:24 am

Most of us don't care at all about this these people who definitely do not work or contribute a thing to the Yukon.

Up 50 Down 6

Matthew on Dec 1, 2021 at 3:40 am

Heartbroken? .. free drugs will NEVER be a solution to anything..

Up 14 Down 14

Real crisis on Nov 30, 2021 at 6:14 pm

I can’t believe we have become so obsessed with the idea of climate change killing people we are missing a real problem right in front of our eyes.

Up 31 Down 1

Sheepchaser on Nov 30, 2021 at 5:10 pm

MLA Blake,
Unfortunately lab-made illicit drugs changed everything. Just having enough for ‘personal use’ is enough to kill someone. A vulnerable child in the home, the responding emergency services workers, etc… At the moment, Fentanyl and other ‘designer’ opioids are being cut into gutter-quality cocaine. The Yukon’s cocaine habit, that’s been around for twenty years (since employers started urine testing for drugs), is the ingress route. Same thing in BC. Cannabis has a long clearance time, cocaine and alcohol much less so. They became the drug of choice and a culture established around them. It’s rooted in the work-a-day bar culture of Whitehorse more than any want to admit. Most of our generation has to refuse illicit drugs, not even seek them out. There is no safe amount and no safe place from them.

Try to see past the sanitized BS you’ve been fed for a lifetime. Leadership requires a deeper wisdom. Simple hashtag solutions work great on the net, no so much in reality.

The more possibilities a young person sees for themselves in life, the less likely they are to turn to drugs. You got such a bigger job to do in solving this. First, spank the teachers union and get them back to doing their jobs. Second, ensure Yukon University is taking advice from the employer community, so they stay grounded as to what their grads really need to succeed. Third, start being honest with our youth. Interact with them as our youngest MLA. Show them how crap the life of Sons of Anarchy and the Trailer Park Boys really is.

Don’t just be your leader’s mouthpiece. Respectfully, do better.

Up 41 Down 8

My Opinion on Nov 30, 2021 at 5:07 pm

Blood Ties is an industry living off of addicts. They started up feeding off of HIV, now that that has dwindled they are looking to another unfortunate group.

Up 40 Down 12

My Opinion on Nov 30, 2021 at 5:06 pm

These are self destructive behaviours not a disease. Giving these folks drugs and a supervised place to do it is no different than setting up a facility for young girls to cut themselves. Nice safe place with clean razor blades and someone to intervene if they get carried away and cut too deep. Does no one see the stupidity of this?

Up 39 Down 10

yukon56 on Nov 30, 2021 at 4:57 pm

Do the drugs and take your chances. Why is this our issue?

Up 36 Down 11

My Opinion on Nov 30, 2021 at 4:57 pm

I can't imagine how these blood ties people will feel after injecting these people over and over only to have them die on the street or at home from subsequent use. It is called enabling.

Up 31 Down 11

My Opinion on Nov 30, 2021 at 4:54 pm

Annie Blake says:
“We need to stop criminalizing a health crisis and decriminalize substance use so that people who use drugs and their loved ones can call 911 without fear of being criminalized.”

It is not a health crisis. This is like saying deaths from drinking and driving or sky diving is health crisis. These are choices and they are bad choices. People want to turn everything into an illness.

Up 54 Down 6

Thomas Brewer on Nov 30, 2021 at 3:30 pm

"Blake also filed a notice of motion calling on the government to decriminalize all recreational drugs." and with that stance, you're guaranteed to never form a government in Yukon. Thankfully!

Up 65 Down 4

Mike on Nov 30, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Why do we keep calling it an opioid problem - why not call it by the offending drugs names - focus on attacking the real problem not a generic family. If it's crack or fentanyl call it that.

Up 60 Down 13

Richard Smith on Nov 30, 2021 at 2:54 pm

It's truly heartbreaking to witness so many lives destroyed and ended by drug overdoses.
It has been proven time and time again that these "Supervised Consumption sites" do not work but overdose deaths are dramatically increased.
At best they provide a slower death with little quality of life.
This "safe supply" and "decriminalizing" of personal use will just increase the drug death rates.
It clearly shows that Ms. Renwick-Shields and the like do not know what they are doing.
I spent many years working at addiction sites and the emphasis should clearly be on prevention and getting off substance abuse.
This is best accomplished by education, strict law enforcement, counseling services, follow up, and, for some, accountability to their Creator which these sites do not provide.
You can really only help those who want help to free themselves.

Up 33 Down 19

Not my problem on Nov 30, 2021 at 2:39 pm

People using drugs is not my problem, that’s a my body, my choice problem. Let the Yukon FreeDumb Party fix it, time to put up or shut up.

Up 33 Down 8

Nathan Living on Nov 30, 2021 at 2:10 pm

Why can't people be satisfied with pot which is legal?
Why use untested street drugs which can be poison?

Up 75 Down 2

stephen on Nov 30, 2021 at 2:08 pm

Why don't you stiffen the laws to say if you sell an illegal drug that kills someone, you are charged with 2nd degree murder and serve a minimum of 10 years in jail. If you cooperate with law enforcement to hand in your supplier to drops to a minimum of 5 years if the deal is convicted and serves a minimum of 10 yrs.

Up 53 Down 5

From the source on Nov 30, 2021 at 1:58 pm

The only way for this crisis to stop is to go to the root of the problem, and make an attempt to get these people to never take them in the first place, or get them off drugs completely. Why there is no proper rehabilitation in Whitehorse is interesting. Unfortunately, this is the plan nobody wants to look at.

We don’t need safe consumption sites, explain how encouraging them to safely take them is solving the root problem, addiction. It’s an endless cycle with the way this is being dealt with.
And decriminalizing drugs? Haha, if you’d like to see downtown Whitehorse worse than it already is, go right ahead.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.