Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Yukon coroner Heather Jones

‘This must be seen as a medical crisis’

The Yukon’s opioid crisis is continuing to flare as the loss of lives mounts.

By Tim Giilck on November 29, 2021

The Yukon’s opioid crisis is continuing to flare as the loss of lives mounts.

Yukon coroner Heather Jones provided an update on the situation this morning.

“The Yukon Coroner’s Service (YCS) reports that the tragic loss of lives due to drug overdoses continues to rise in the Yukon at an alarming rate,” she said in a news release.

“It is both heartbreaking and staggering that as of Nov. 26, YCS confirms 21 lost lives due to toxic illicit drug use since Jan. 1 of this year (with more currently under investigation).

“All of these deaths involved opioids in various formats of fentanyl, and a large percentage also involved cocaine. Alcohol and benzodiazepines (‘benzos’) are also seen in some of these fatalities.”

The Yukon, like most other Canadian jurisdictions, Jones said, “has suffered greatly under the strain of what has been deemed ‘the opioid crisis’, which found its way to us in the spring of 2016.

“Since that time, and to date, 54 individuals in the Yukon have lost their lives to the illicit use of opioids. Eighty-five per cent of those total deaths have involved fentanyl.

“A further 10 individuals have died as the result of non-opioid drug overdoses during that time-period. The Yukon has lost 64 lives to drug overdoses since spring 2016.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 32 drug-overdose deaths occurred in the Yukon.

“Twenty-nine of these involved opioids and all but one of these deaths were fentanyl-related,” Jones said.

“During this time, we have seen the drug supply become more and more toxic and unstable.

“Seventy-three per cent of these deaths have occurred since January of this year, with numbers tragically increasing over these past three months. We are on a frightening trajectory.”

According to national data compiled from chief coroner and chief medical examiner offices across the country, Canada currently has what is referred to as “a crude rate” (deaths per a population of 100,000) of 19.4 deaths due to opioids.

Since this crisis began in 2016, British Columbia has consistently led the country with the highest “crude rate” for opioid deaths.

Data indicate the current “crude rate” in B.C. has skyrocketed to 40.4 deaths.

“With the recent confirmed deaths in the Yukon, our ‘crude rate’ has surpassed this to  become the highest in the country, with an astounding 48.4 deaths due to opioids per 100,000 people,” Jones said.

“For this office, and most certainly all of us, this is shocking. Opioid deaths now represent over 20 per cent of all deaths investigated by Yukon Coroner’s Service from January 1 to Nov. 26, 2021.

“This must be seen as a medical crisis,” Jones added.

“These deaths for the most part are people who are dying alone in their homes. And when naloxone (a temporary antidote to the effects of opioid overdose) can be administered, it appears that it is becoming less and less effective against the increasing toxicity of the drugs.

“As these numbers continue to grow, so too, does the burden of grief and unimaginable losses felt throughout our territory.

“These drugs are killing our children, our parents, our aunties and uncles, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews, our grand children and yes, our grandparents,” Jones said. “We have seen, many times now, that no part of our society is unaffected.

“These deaths are occurring in young people barely out of their teens and to those well into their 70s. More and more Yukon families are being left with a devastating reality in the wake of these lost lives,” she added.

“Sadly, it is safe to say that most Yukoners do not have to look very far to find some connection to the devastating impact this crisis is having.”

“This is the stark reality all of the Yukon is dealing with,” NDP Leader Kate White told the Star early this afternoon. “There isn’t a community that isn’t affected.”

Comments (39)

Up 4 Down 2

Josey Wales on Dec 5, 2021 at 6:49 am

Re chime....a couple things.
One, what is the deal with the ever present beaded/crafted lapels?
Even the radical lefty globalists in Europe wear them.
Yes they differ from tag to tag, but they must have a purpose, a role in this progressive theatre?

Two...that photo ?
Looks like she just exhaled a massive bong hit prior to addressing us... lowly common folk?

Till the next state proclaimed crisis...or see y’all next week...OJW.

Up 6 Down 0

bill on Dec 3, 2021 at 9:16 pm

Yes, if I were you I would back out as well. Got beat playing your own game. It would be good for you to heed what the wise man said - alas, I somehow do not think you will. Next time (hopefully you will have learned) stop being a bully. Most of us have a zero tolerance for bullies. Oh, if you do not care to read this, that is fine - others will.

Up 1 Down 4

Davis on Dec 3, 2021 at 2:48 pm

@Bill - Your arguments don't make any sense and are full of contradictions and false claims.
I can see where this is headed - a wise man once said "never argue with an idiot, for he will bring you down to his level and beat you with experience". With that I will now conclude our discussion and will no longer check this thread.

Up 5 Down 4

@Davis on Dec 1, 2021 at 3:50 pm

Yup. You made a direct attack on him. You could have gotten your point across without have stoop to the level you did. By the way mon ami your quoting his comments "...are a bunch of stupid, inane low lifes (his exact words) that don't deserve any help" is not what he said, I quote from his note "All we seem to do is throw scarce resources trying to solve stupidity and inane behaviour." That is a far cry from your stated and in error quote. Quit the drama. Besides you are no knight in shining honour coming to save the down trodden.

Up 10 Down 7

Davis on Dec 1, 2021 at 1:41 pm

@Bill - Let me get this straight - John publicly insulted everyone who has been impacted by the opioid crises by stated that people who have lost their lives or are suffering from opioid addictions are a bunch of stupid, inane low lifes (his exact words) that don't deserve any help, then I stood up for and defended people who have been impacted by the opioid crises and now somehow you determine that I'm the bully in this situation???

Up 11 Down 8

Bill on Nov 30, 2021 at 9:41 pm

@ Davis
Your tirade against John really mirrors your own ignorance. Before you disparage other folks you should first look in the mirror to be sure your own image is sparkling clean.

You know nothing of John (nor do I) but because he does not share the same narrative as you - oh wise one - then you feel compelled to label him ignorant. He is entitled to his opinion, just as you. Agree, or disagree is your right but personally I draw a line in the sand when someone like you feels empowered to bully another commentator in a negative light. You have some growing up to do my friend.

Up 6 Down 7

bonanzajoe on Nov 30, 2021 at 7:57 pm

Melba: Maybe Sheepway should have been given a Commissioner's award then sent away for rehabilitation. Might perk up those low life pushers a bit and make them think.

Up 17 Down 7

bonanzajoe on Nov 30, 2021 at 7:49 pm

Big Yukoner: Empathy doesn't solve a druggy's drug problem. Getting tough with them, helps a lot more. Better to jail them and rehabilitate them, then hug them. Better to lock them up until they are rehabilitated, then let them out so they can commit crimes against the public to pay for their illicit drugs. Rehabilitate a druggy, problem solved. Hug a druggy and problem persists.

Up 3 Down 8

bonanzajoe on Nov 30, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Ann: You are right, the police always wait for the big bust. They should not wait and make small busts. It doesn't matter how big or small the bust is, thanks to the lenient and discriminating judges, the perps are back on the street within hours. So, I say, police, don't wait, make your bust the moment you have the chance. Never know, with all the extra work, it might take some weight off some of those over weight cops.

Up 22 Down 12

Sarc Shark on Nov 30, 2021 at 11:34 am

Maybe we could declare another state of emergency and further expand the lockdowns.

Up 21 Down 6

Sarah Davison on Nov 30, 2021 at 11:34 am

Curious to know what happened in Spring 2016, why this problem suddenly appeared here at that time. Who is here now who wasn't in 2016? And also, what is fueling the rapid increase in consumption. That sounds like an exponential increase.
US media state there's massive transport across the southern US border with the border unpatrolled this year, and that China's behind fentanyl production and distribution. Many deaths occurring because fentanyl is now in everything, including prescription and recreational drugs like Xanax and Ecstasy bought off the street.

Up 24 Down 18

Davis on Nov 30, 2021 at 10:39 am

I find it astonishing to see how many people in the world still share the same ignorant views as @John. John obviously has no education around this subject yet talks like he's an expert and superior than everyone else. @John, have you ever stopped to think about how people get addicted to opioids in the first place? In the majority of cases these are not people that "have a death wish", as you put it. Is taking pain relief medication during child birth or while recovering from a surgery or to help with an injured back or to arthritis a "death wish"?? These are common scenarios of how opioid addictions can begin.

Other common examples are if someone suffers physical or psychological abuse as a child and has no supports (our health care system is pretty dismal in this regard) to deal with the impacts and turns to a form of substances as a last resort to help deal with the pain or depression - does that somehow make that person a lesser human being that does not deserve our support? Nobody wants to be addicted to opioids. Don't be so quick to judge other people without first educating yourself.

Up 22 Down 23

melba on Nov 30, 2021 at 10:13 am

As for the super tough keyboard warriors who 'don't give a crap' about the people who are dying, you are tempting fate. One day it might be your kid or someone you DO care about. I know who a couple of these people are. I know that one in particular had a really tough childhood and despite that, at least for a time she tried hard. She was a good person. I know the parent of another who is one of the best people in this territory, and his kid had experienced tough times at no fault of their own.

You sound like real jackasses who have had no life experience, though no doubt you think you are really tough and worldly. You are a joke.

Up 50 Down 2

melba on Nov 30, 2021 at 10:06 am

Darryl Sheepway who is currently in jail in BC, shot and killed his crack dealer. That dealer had been to jail twice for drug dealing offenses (among other offences). Caught, went to jail, 'I'll never do it again', was let out. Dealt drugs again, caught, went to jail, 'I'll never do it again', was let out. Dealt drugs again, got shot. Didn't deal drugs again.

Darryl was robbing his dealer when he shot him. The dealer was totally fine with anything Darryl might do to get money for his drugs but must have been really surprised when the gun was pointed at him!

As a community, we have to demand that these dealers be removed. Make their lives here 'uncomfortable'. People know who they are. Speak up! Demand action!

Up 36 Down 3

melba on Nov 30, 2021 at 9:55 am

Who is selling these drugs?! I do not personally know how someone would buy them or from whom or where. But obviously a lot of peope do know! Time to take out the garbage, people. These greedy lowlifes are one small step above flat out murderers. The police have arrested several drug dealers this year. Has anything happened to them? Even if another little drug dealer will just step up and take their place, severe consequences are required to tip the equation a little more toward, 'hmm.. selling these drugs to young people in the Yukon probably isn't worth it.'

Start talking to each other if you know who these dealers are!

Up 35 Down 5

Groucho d'North on Nov 30, 2021 at 8:56 am

Just yesterday (Nov. 29) the NDP made a motion in the legislature: "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." Wouldn't that make is easier for dangerous and questionable quality drugs to be available throughout the Yukon? I fail to see the logic of this motion. It is parallel to the courts that do little with their punishments to dissuade the drug dealers who profit from the suffering and death of their customers.

Up 18 Down 8

Josey Wales on Nov 30, 2021 at 7:31 am

Ahhhhh....now we really need to panic, fear each day!
About that, given all the other state proclaimed crisis...germs...climate...racism...nationalism...unvaccinated & undesirable...
gotta say I am maxed outta crisis.
I guess that is the new fear, “ how to cope with crisis when you cannot process any more”

Given the junkie centre that opened up, the absolutely enabling via the state with poor life choices and big pharmaceutical corporations being so cozy in bed with the state?

When I walk around, I see a fat person crisis too...
Drunk folks crisis...
Stupid driver crisis...
Political interference with basic laws ensuring a somewhat peaceful life crisis...
A too many stupid people come outta public school crisis...
A too many naive ideological fools draw wages indoctrinating the stupid INTO people crisis...
A race baiting, race supremacy crisis...all things white being bad of course.

...I will ceasing listing crisis that add up to epic dysfunction, epic engineered state policy, epic authoritarian over reach.

Oh yeah...a freedom of expression crisis has existed awhile now.
Rolled by a freedom of movement crisis...geez there I go again.

Up 18 Down 3

YukonMax on Nov 30, 2021 at 6:37 am

I would bet my life that "some" of them were at the top of the pain scale from their ailments and since Yukon Health does not recognize "pain" as condition they were denied any pain management from their respective Community Heath Centers. I know many of you just recognized themselves.

Up 17 Down 9

Mike on Nov 29, 2021 at 9:55 pm

I'm not sure but I believe that if you don't use drugs this may curb this new but more deadly pandemic. But I said the same about covid the liberals have politicised covid to their benefit and anyone thinking they give a crap is as dumb as the sheep waiting to get slaughtered. This is a new time and a new age where lying gets you elected and saying no gets you arrested. Welcome to the new liberal agenda hope everyone who participated reaps what they've sown

Up 31 Down 5

Salt on Nov 29, 2021 at 9:07 pm

Maybe we can get some drug-free passports mandated?! Weekly urine test allows you to participate in society. Use drugs? No non-essential services, no job, maybe even deny them health care. It’s a personal choice after all and if we save even just one life it will be worth it.

Up 21 Down 1

Dave kavanagh on Nov 29, 2021 at 9:02 pm

Where is the law enforcement in all of this? Surely in a town like Whitehorse they must know most of the drug dealers. At least get them off the street.

Up 34 Down 2

iBrian on Nov 29, 2021 at 8:33 pm

Ha, Vancouver BC has free safe injection sites and still lost like 440 People to OD last year.
Can’t fix it, if it ain’t broken, it’s the way it is. People continue to OD, it’s gonna happen.

Up 24 Down 6

bonanzajoe on Nov 29, 2021 at 8:30 pm

This drug death crisis will never be solved until it is attacked from the right position. Most everybody, including the police - but unfortunately the politicians don't know where the drugs are coming from and who is pushing them. But the Human Rights groups won't allow them to attack the problem. So, the politicians come up with idiotic solutions like safe drug houses etc. Bring your street drugs to us and we will see that you take them right and we will look after you. In the meantime, the perps are out their pushing their drugs and getting rich. I know of one young man - not by name, only by sight - that lives off this occupation. He doesn't have a real job. I have seen him conduct business in my neighborhood and he drives a nice new car. If I know about him, the police must know to. But, because of the Human Rights laws, can't do anything about it. So, if you want to put a stop to this, it has to attacked from the right direction. Helping the druggies won't put a stop to it. As a military veteran, you can't fight an enemy by inviting him to a restaurant for a cup of coffee.
The political leaders can invoke the Emergency Act for covid, but won't do anything about the real killers in our society. Shame on them. I say, drug safe houses and shelters for the homeless should be built in their rich neighborhoods. How about that Silver, would like a bunch of streets bums and druggies living next to you? Why should they be in sent to my neighborhood?

Up 21 Down 11

Max Mack on Nov 29, 2021 at 8:11 pm

In many of these cases, deaths of despair.

And the tyrants keep piling it on. Masks, social distancing, limits on gathering, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, no health care, no doctors that really care about the patient anyway - even if you can find one. No one to care for you.

So sad.

Up 15 Down 19

Big Yukoner on Nov 29, 2021 at 7:56 pm

Wow, interesting comments with no empathy, foresight and of course, no critical thinking skills. I wonder where I can get my medical degree on Facebook, what prominent antivaxxer should I follow, the memes? Please let me know.

Up 17 Down 1

Ann on Nov 29, 2021 at 7:28 pm

There are two ways to get to the Yukon. By air or automobile. I bet the police know who the major players are up here and they are waiting for a big bust in order to any charges to stick. It is the only job I see as the sellers are the lovers all around. First, the dealers sell deadly drugs and kill their clients. Or they kill people who owe them money by giving hotshot, another really stupid business move. I encourage all Yukoners to report drug dealers and their activities to police.

Up 23 Down 5

My Opinion on Nov 29, 2021 at 6:58 pm

@ Mathew @ Davis

21 dead in 9.5 months 13 COVID deaths in almost 2 years More like three times as many Opioid deaths as COVID.
So for the Opioid crisis what do we do? These drugs are killing people so we enable them by setting up a place to inject and provide the addictive drugs that will eventually kill them.

Using that exact same logic we would be setting up a facility to give people COVID to achieve immunity. How would that sell do you think?
All Logic has left the building. Always looking through a Woke, PC lens.

Up 21 Down 6

Guncache on Nov 29, 2021 at 6:36 pm

I've studied this carefully and have come to a startling conclusion. Don't take illicit drugs and you won't die from them. Apparently the highly educated didn't pay attention in class when they were takiing about this. If you show me your naloxone kit and then od on illicit drugs, well guess what? You've seen your last sunrise.

Up 14 Down 4

Jim on Nov 29, 2021 at 5:53 pm

We have labeled illicit drugs as a crisis and a need for a safe (free) supply. But the other 2 vices that the public deal with daily and is addictive is alcohol, pot and cigarettes. But instead of supplying a safe place to consume them, we make huge businesses from them and tax their sale at a great percentage. One thing they all have in common. Sooner or later they will all kill you ( well pot maybe not as the jury is still out). So I have no problem if they want to make all drugs legal, but if you want to play you got to pay. Tired of the flush of tax dollars to enable a lifestyle that is dangerous and addictive.

Up 24 Down 4

Juniper Jackson on Nov 29, 2021 at 5:46 pm

People who have addicts in their families, like I do, know, and learned the hard way, that you can not help someone that does not want to be helped. Every time my doorbells rings I have an instant of fear, someone is going to tell me that she is gone. There is nothing I can do, and I lost everything trying. Addicts, junkies, they know about fentanyl, then they take it anyway... I would think we have a rash of suicides rather than a rash of accidental ODs.

People OD in their 70s? That's a suicide. Hopelessness, loneliness, covid fear and winter. A deadly combination. Hopelessness is its own disease. Health departments know all this, but either choose to continue the trend, of mouth service, no action except to offer free drugs and a warm place to die, or pass it to the government that chooses to encourage addiction.

Hope comes with purpose, not free money. My generation always had faith that there would be milk on the table, that the kid would have a bike for his birthday, that I'd always be employable and have a job. Young adults today? They have no faith that everything will turn out well. If i had to be 25 today, I'd probably do drugs too.

Up 15 Down 16

Politico on Nov 29, 2021 at 5:00 pm

It's a shame most of the comments criticizes the politicians and victims. 120 yrs of a lost war on drugs and the anonymous commentators are still spouting the same old talking points. When do we realize the futility of this and treat victims like the medical problems they are?

Up 46 Down 4

Clean on Nov 29, 2021 at 4:50 pm

I’m an addict. In recovery for a few years now. I was a functional addict for decades. I always worked, always provided for my family. Never caught a charge. Most who knew me had no idea the darkness just behind the veil.

I was lucky, I found my way after decades once I was just tired of it all, I reached out and got help, first through my doctor then through the gambit of available programming and councillors. SMART recovery, a science based program did it for me (thx jj). No surrendering to a higher power. No religious guilt. Just understanding how your brain works and how to reprogram it.

I’ve been around hundreds of addicts. From the ones you see on the street all the way up to the ones in professional roles you wouldn’t even imagine are struggling. Addiction doesn’t discriminate on age, ethnicity, social status or how much money you have in the bank.

My personal belief is that as a society we enable addicts beyond the intention of keeping them safe. I mean why would I get a job if someone makes me a hot meal 3 times a day. Gives me a place to live. Gives me cash and groceries. I can just sit in the park with a 26er and a fat sack of dope. Good times, right?

The biggest failure in the equation lies with the police and courts. I could stand in the middle of 4th and Main and chug a mickie of Smirnoff at high noon an the Popo will drive right on by.

People getting arrested for petty crimes and even violent ones are right back on the street to reoffend days, even hours later. Even one of the ‘big boys’ arrested last year is still on the street slinging dope awaiting trial.

Addiction is a social issue until it becomes a criminal one. Once it does, the courts need to apply meaningful sentences. To me that means jail time and MANDATORY programming and tight conditions on release of successful programming. Even further, dealers who knowingly sell fentanyl to someone who dies should be on the hook for manslaughter; their product killed someone.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your brother or some rando in the street, don’t make an addicts life comfortable, you are doing more harm than good. There’s only 2 ways out of addiction, one of ‘em is in a body bag, help them avoid that by not enabling them.

Up 20 Down 10

Matt on Nov 29, 2021 at 4:09 pm

Could opioid deaths be the process of natural selection ........?

Up 19 Down 11

Rick S on Nov 29, 2021 at 3:55 pm

So twice as many as Covid this year, but counting since the beginning of the pandemic 3-4 times as many overdose deaths? That also assumes our Covid deaths were all primary Covid deaths, which we know is nonsense.

Up 82 Down 26

Matthew on Nov 29, 2021 at 3:26 pm

So, not sure why we haven't declared a drug crisis yet! It's almost double the amount from Covid! Instead we've opened up a free drug house, and imposed draconian restrictions on the highest vaccination rate in the country and almost the world!

Up 110 Down 31

John on Nov 29, 2021 at 3:15 pm

When you play with fire, expect to get burned. If you play with drugs expect at some time your luck is going to run out.

This is not a crisis for those that don't take drugs or people who don't put their hands into a flame. We have people who are in dire medical need of care, yet here we are fretting about those that don't give a crap about anyone but themselves. I am not the least bit torn to pieces for those that have a death wish. Nor do I give a rat's ass about where we sit nationally.

All we seem to do is throw scarce resources trying to solve stupidity and inane behaviour. Put those resources towards people who are just trying to get adequate medical care - that is what is lacking here in the Yukon. That is what needs our attention !!!

Up 58 Down 22

Big surprise on Nov 29, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Big surprise
The Yukon is so obsessed with deaths from climate change they are missing the obvious. Hopefully people will change.

Up 103 Down 32

Failed on Nov 29, 2021 at 2:20 pm

They won't admit it, but Hanley and Silver failed this territory. They became obsessed with COVID and everything else has been left to rot. Can't even walk into a clinic now, and it's illegal to visit 2 friends at the same time. Silver's cabinet sat idly by and proved themselves cowards along the way. The NDP just did the same, showing they'd rather have power than responsibility. Thanks for the great work folks.

Up 85 Down 31

Davis on Nov 29, 2021 at 2:01 pm

So the opioid crisis has killed about twice as many people as covid-19 has, yet it gets a fraction of the attention...seems a bit strange.

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.