Whitehorse Daily Star

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Yukon coroner Heather Jones

Three have died from fentanyl since January

It appears as if the Yukon’s problem with opioid deaths is accelerating.

By Tim Giilck on February 22, 2021

It appears as if the Yukon’s problem with opioid deaths is accelerating.

In a news release issued late Friday, the Yukon Coroner’s Service confirmed three deaths as a result of drug overdoses, involving the opioid fentanyl, since mid-January.

No figures for opioid-related overdoses have been released since last summer, so the current numbers appear more startling.

Yukon coroner Heather Jones said in the release a fourth death during the same time period is pending toxicological results, but is suspected to be attributable to a drug overdose.

All of these deaths occurred in the Whitehorse area.

“Drug overdoses continue to take the lives of Yukoners at an alarming rate,” said Jones.

“Since Yukon’s first fentanyl death in 2016, Yukon has had a total of 36 confirmed opioid deaths, 28 of which involved fentanyl.

“In 2020, the Coroner’s Service investigated 14 drug overdose deaths. Of these, 10 involved opioids, eight of which were fentanyl-based. These numbers are more than double those that were seen in 2019.”

Jill Aalhus, the program manager for the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre, called the report by Jones concerning.

“We were very saddened to hear it,” she told the Star this morning.

“But not surprised. The pandemic has affected the drug supply in the Yukon.

“We’ve heard anecdotally that there is more fentanyl contaminating the drugs available.

“While we don’t have a clear picture, we think there could be increased contamination in the drugs, and people may not know exactly what they’re taking.”

Aalhus added “there is a great deal of concern in the community about these issues.

“We need to advocate for a safe supply of drugs for people and for support to deal with these issues.”

Naloxone is also one of the key items needing to be made easily available to the public, Aalhus added. It’s used to treat overdoses until proper medical help can be obtained.

However, there could be a problem with that, according to at least one person.

Local resident Mike Simon told the Star he always tries to carry a kit with him while he travels the Yukon for work.

He’s encountered several people who have been unconscious, likely due to drugs.

He said he recently went to a Shoppers Drug Mart location in Whitehorse to obtain a new kit.

Simon said he was disconcerted to discover the free kits made available by the government are injection kits. He said he had obtained kits in Toronto approximately two years ago that contained nasal sprays rather than hypodermic needles.

Simon said he believed the injection kits are too complicated to be relied on, and their use is potentially dangerous.

He made some inquiries – and was told he could obtain the nasal spray kits if he wished to pay for them.

“They said the injection kits were cheaper,” Simon told the Star.

The spray kits were much more expensive, he said, although he didn’t remember the exact cost.

“You have to question the rationale of the government,” he said. “You want something that’s easy to use.”

Some of the Yukon’s political leaders weighed in on the situation as well.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of these deaths,” said NDP leader Kate White.

“People across the Yukon are losing neighbours, friends, and family members, and their loss affects our entire community.

“Much more needs to be done. We need a public health approach to drug use, not a criminal approach.”

Pauline Frost, the minister of Health and Social Services, said “the recent opioid-related deaths are a tragic reminder that fentanyl continues to present a very real danger in our communities.

“This is not the time to shame people or pass judgment. It is time to rally around our communities, our friends, our neighbours and family members who need our support.

“We need to be compassionate and supportive, and work to end the stigma around drug use and addiction,” Frost added.

“Our government is working with our community partners to expand drug-checking capacity in the territory, and to remind people not to use alone and to keep naloxone kits on hand.”

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, also commented in the release.

“All Yukon communities have been affected by these deaths and it is clear this is still an issue of real concern,” he said.

“These deaths and overdoses are occurring in people from all walks of life, and in ages.

“Given the number of overdoses that both Yukon RCMP and Emergency Medical Services have responded to in recent months, we are fortunate the death toll is not higher.”

Hanley said a number of initiatives have been introduced to support individuals, however.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a part in how services are offered and accepted.

“Although much is in place for those who are ready and willing to access the services, we recognize that there is still much work to be done.”

Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard, the commanding officer of the RCMP “M” Division, stated in the release, “The Yukon RCMP works daily alongside our first responders and remains concerned about the impacts illicit drugs are having on our community.

“Between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, Yukon RCMP members administered Naloxone to members of the general public on 23 separate occasions.

“The RCMP have also attended an additional 46 separate calls for service where synthetic opioid/fentanyl was suspected. The possible consumption of drugs contaminated with fentanyl, and potential overdose, is very real in our territory. The consequences are severe.”

“Any death is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to those impacted,” the Yukon Party said early this afternoon.

“For the last several years, we have been calling on the government to do more to address the growing opioid crisis in the territory including by providing increased resources for mental health and drug addictions services.

“While these issues have been here for years, we know that the pandemic and the unintended consequences of the government-imposed restrictions have exacerbated the problem,” the official opposition added.

“In the fall legislative sitting, our very first question of the government was what they were doing to address this issue and the growing opioid crisis and unfortunately, the government was dismissive.

“We also proposed the creation of an all-party committee that would have quickly studied the current supports available to address mental health and addictions issues and provide recommendations on how to immediately improve them.

“Unfortunately, the Liberals did not support this proposal. These issues are urgent and the government needs to start taking quick and decisive action to address them.”

Comments (29)

Up 1 Down 0

Josey Wales on Feb 28, 2021 at 11:01 am

Hey June...yeah...that post threw me a curve ball.
Illustrated to me that Sheepchaser is not as dumb as Sheepchaser often (but not always) reads as.
Curve ball over the plate yes, but good indicators on how diametric thinkers can & do align from time to time.
My support matters not to Sheepchaser I am certain, but it's only right to pay heed to good message...which I just have done.
...even tossed a UT to it as well, as done to yours June.

Up 5 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on Feb 27, 2021 at 10:30 pm

Couldn't say this better than Sheepchaser. Under the guise of providing "help" the governments over the years have created an enabler culture. My dad said..you touch that ***t don't come home. Today's parents say..we know you're going to try drugs.. just call us to come get you when you are stoned out of your mind. Enabling their kids to destroy their minds and poison their bodies. My parents were not my friends. They were mentors, guards and guardian's. I was 30 before I could say they were my friends.


Marijuana Rising Potency, as detected in confiscated samples, has steadily increased over the past few decades. In the early 1990s, the average THC content in confiscated marijuana samples was less than 4%.2. In 2018, it was more than 15%.29. Marijuana concentrates can have much higher levels of THC (see Marijuana Concentrates DrugFacts). The increasing potency of marijuana, combined with the use of high-THC concentrates, raises concerns that the consequences of marijuana use today could be worse than in the past, particularly among those who are new to marijuana use and in young people, whose brains are still developing (see "What are marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain?"). Maybe because steady users are brain damaged; they enable themselves to take the fentanyl, even though they know the dangers.

Up 9 Down 0

Anie on Feb 26, 2021 at 2:51 pm

Sheepchaser - very well written. You raise many points that should inspire thoughtful consideration and discussion. I may not agree with all your conclusions, but you certainly have given me much to think about.

Up 34 Down 1

Sheepchaser on Feb 25, 2021 at 9:01 am

Just having a look at some of the claims of how much public funding goes into addiction treatment and management in the Yukon. When you add it all up, from healthcare to emergency services, from housing to outreach... Pretty surprised to see almost 10% of the territorial budget gets allocated to caring for 1% of the population. There’s many, many more people who have addiction issues, but the vast majority seem to be able to keep it to themselves, mostly. Meanwhile, a tiny portion of the population puts their problems on everyone else. Our answer is throw resources at them with no end. To the point where it becomes a sustainable lifestyle for the addict. Binge, throw-up, go to work. Added to that is the cost of lost efficiency by keeping addicts employed in menial government posts. Working at one third speed and still waking up feeling like the world owes them something. That’s an impressive level of delusion.

I’m all for the safety net. For people who have a chance of pulling themselves out of it. It is time though, I think, to have a look at what we do with those that can’t. Universal basic income is derided by many, but this is one scenario where it would be much cheaper than the government and NGOs allocating ever more money to a cause without end. It also gets so corrupt. Once a social program gets unionized... all semblance of reasonable limits go out the window.

The kind of money we dump into addiction could revolutionize the standard of living for the entire population. Thinking about the modernization of education in particular.
At what point does it become morally objectionable to limit the potential of those with ability for the sake of marginally easing the suffering of those who have turned their backs on our society? To what standard must we care for those who choose not to contribute?

As the circus winds down, as we move from pandemic restrictions to climate restrictions, as endless quantitative easing comes home to roost with hyperinflation, as China rises to surpass the economy of the West, as we collectively spend and live way beyond our means, as household debt ratios climb and climb, as personal responsibility disappears, as each and every injustice resulting from the lack of fairness that is the baseline of existence gets its media moment, as schools and teachers colleges do away with any grading or recognition of merit... the music has already stopped, the chairs are occupied, what are you going to do?

Yes, everyone is valuable. But maybe not infinitely, you know?

Up 17 Down 5

Allan Stanley on Feb 24, 2021 at 7:54 pm

Ya willingly put GARBAGE in your body - your choice.

Ya die a horrible death !

Up 16 Down 3

bonanzajoe on Feb 24, 2021 at 4:37 pm

#Just saying: We used to have resources for mental illness when I was growing up. It was called Mental hospitals. But just shortly after the hippie 60s, they were abolished. Now, the new age Human Rights resources are, on the street.

Up 42 Down 3

Lost In the Yukon on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:50 pm

So we have a drug (and alcohol) problem? Big surprise ... taxpayers have funded Yukon Governments Alcohol program to the tune of over $120,000,000 over the last thirty years and if anything, things have gotten worse. When does it become time to stop doing the same thing each year and pouring millions in taxpayer dollars down a dark hole where accountability for results are on-existent and expecting different results ...

Up 21 Down 3

Anie on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Can someone pls help me understand why a drug dealer would cut his product with fentanyl? I do understand that cutting will increase the volume of the product, increasing profit. But it seems to me that there are so many harmless products available that will do the same job. The only answer I can think of is that fentanyl must give a quicker, or a more effective, high. But if that's the answer, then the purchaser would surely be aware that it's laced with fentanyl?
This conundrum has confused me for a long time and I would seriously appreciate some better understanding. All drug addicts are not mentally ill, or cognitively challenged, or the typical lower east side hit bottom characters. We read every day about typical functioning people dying from fentanyl overdose. So do they know what they are buying and choose to roll the dice?

Up 25 Down 9

Moose101 on Feb 24, 2021 at 5:02 am

I don’t care and neither do all the hard working people I work with .

Up 14 Down 19

curious george on Feb 23, 2021 at 7:26 pm

Check out yukonfreedom.com for more trustworthy information about how covid measures have been far more harmful than any flu ever did. Enough of the totalitarian dictates violating our rights and freedoms. There is no excuse for what I knowingly is being done against the commoners.

Up 28 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Feb 23, 2021 at 4:34 pm

Drug dealers from Surrey and other southern locations are not new here, they have been around for a long time - and they keep coming back because when the RCMP catch them the courts let them go with a tap on the wrist. Now the federal Liberals are making noises about decriminalizing all drugs because it is a health problem and not a criminal one.
And the dead will not complain.

Up 33 Down 3

Liberalism is a disease! on Feb 23, 2021 at 4:11 pm

Dear iBrian - Yes, it would be entirely unreasonable to do so as drug use is a choice that one makes knowing the potential risks associated with drug use.
My friend Ray Tardid said the other day that we keep hitting ever new lows as a society with the tendency for blame towards others - No one is ever at fault for their own actions. That my friends is Ray Tardid, in a nutshell...

Would it be reasonable to charge a gun dealer with manslaughter when someone shoots themselves in committing suicide? What about the car dealer if someone drives it off a bridge to end their own life? Manslaughter?
You’ll probably find some Liberal minded judge to go along with the idea as Liberals seem to be able justify and rationalize any other irrational idea.

DO NOT DO DRUGS! No drugs, no drug overdose, death for you!

Now - if the drug dealer injects the toxin into your bloodstream - Different story, maybe.
But FFS! People need to be accountable for their choices!

Up 56 Down 4

My Opinion on Feb 23, 2021 at 2:07 pm

Drug addicts know Fentanyl kills, they do it anyway. Hard to scare some with death when they feel their life isn't worth living.

Up 61 Down 8

My Opinion on Feb 23, 2021 at 2:05 pm

So 4 DEAD in the last month from these illegal drugs, yet only one from COVID in the last year. Are we fighting the wrong war? Why is it when I read of these drug dealers being arrested they are already released on the same charges, why are they not in Jail? 20 year olds from BC up here selling, with many previous charges. Why are they out? How do they get through our border that is supposed to be essential travel only? Are the people that are contracted to stop people at the border not doing their job? Are they compromised and being paid under the table? One has to wonder.

Up 33 Down 9

Josey Wales on Feb 23, 2021 at 12:01 pm

iBrian...seems good but never will it happen.
They reserve harshness like that for hurt feelings, and being subjected to opinions you thought safe from.
China has done a great job of helping everyone die, destroy non commi countries. Yet our PM is on the record as having a great deal of respect for the CCP, Kung Flu comments aside as there is enough geo-political meddling outta the CCP that our PM admires.

YLP & CLP "public health" policies have and continue to DESTROY lives...keep voting for complete brain dead idiots...more die.
Hell bent on turning our country, into what our downtown has become.
...an absolute dismal failure of a socialist experiment, with much blood on the lab coats of the "team Red" engineers.

Up 44 Down 12

iBrian on Feb 23, 2021 at 4:24 am

So, wondering what others would think, but would the charge of “Involuntary Manslaughter” be unreasonable to charge a dealer in possession of Fentanyl?

Up 59 Down 11

Guncache on Feb 22, 2021 at 6:13 pm

Here is a radical idea. Don't take drugs, don't die.

Up 52 Down 7

Lost In the Yukon on Feb 22, 2021 at 5:16 pm

Nice to see Pauline Frost’s and Samis’s Alcohol and Drug Services or whatever fancy name they call themselves today front and centre on this issue ... not!

Up 44 Down 15

Well we welcome chinese investment into the economy right? on Feb 22, 2021 at 5:06 pm


My condolences to the families.
If we keep voting Liberal we'll keep having this problem. They are in China's pocket. (Not intended to become a political post but quite frankly it's true)

Up 21 Down 15

Virginia Labelle on Feb 22, 2021 at 4:49 pm

While I appreciate the comments in the article about the free naloxone injection kits being more difficult to use than the nasal sprays, they are still pretty easy to use. Any of the naloxone kit distributors in the Yukon will train you in filling the syringe and then injecting (into biceps, quadriceps, or glutes), using water and an orange. So go get a kit and be ready to save a life! Here's where you can get the free kits and training "Do You Want Help in Yukon? – Know Your Source?" https://knowyoursource.ca/get-addiction-help/yukon/

Up 37 Down 13

Hmmm on Feb 22, 2021 at 4:26 pm

Just gotta wonder if the last high profile death wasn't from fentanyl, eh?

Up 21 Down 13

Josey Wales on Feb 22, 2021 at 4:15 pm

Wow...that is a dire warning from, another health 'crat!!!

So what now, all of us off to rehab?
Must we all do a few rounds of drug (x) under a health 'crats ORDERS...to gain empathy?
a state order making stewardship of junkies, where they (State 'Crats) appoint a care giver from the collective to babysit adults?
Ya know, it's for the greater good of H&SS...if we can save one life?
Is having a stranger with serious issues living in your home going to upset you?
Are you one of "those people", why do you want folks to die "people" ?

Why are you so full of hate? said near every liberal.... I can go on for days folks.
LIBERAL public safety, having health crats run the show, set the dance beat
AND have a place so dysfunctional folks would rather effin DIE, than be here?
That is a better question to ask! People are free to choose however they prematurely JUMP outta the gene pool. Key word THEY as in a person NOT me.
Stuff cheeseburgers down your gullet like a pelican, you will lose sight of your feet and die far sooner.
Funny still have fast food just smoking along, no fat shaming...WHY?
Wish to suck on fags till your lungs shut down, no biggie buy smokes at the store.
wish to cut off your junk, absolutely no sweat...your body your choice.
funny that "germ danger" is enough to grind us down to a halt.
...and folks wonder why others are hanging with Alice, seeking an escape?
Gee.. it is almost like they may think their life "might suck"
Like..." indefinitely " under team SS?

end this theater now team SS!

Up 56 Down 14

increase SCAN $$` on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:43 pm

So COVID's impact vs opioids in Yukon. How much money has been spent on CEMA enforcement, education, special hotels, places to eat, travel corridors etc... Maybe invest more into SCAN investigators and firmer legisltation for dealing fentanyl. Sad that those impacted by fentanyl seem to be the forgotten ones....

Up 53 Down 6

Just Sayin' on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:39 pm

You know what sucks, is no one does a root cause evaluation as to why this is occurring? A lot of this stems from mental illness and we all have mental illness, just different outlets for it. Some choose wine, others choose a treadmill, but we have to acknowledge that mental illness exists and the Yukon needs to provide resources for mental health resources.

Up 17 Down 15

Juniper Jackson on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:29 pm

Probably a whole lot more thinking of it.. I think of it. Not necessarily fentyal.. but something to end this s**it.

Up 46 Down 26

bonanzajoe on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:18 pm

The government has to give the police authority to enter homes for search when they suspect someone is dealing drugs like they did many years ago. Not monitor them for 3-5 years before they can make an arrest. Take them down now, worry about the consequences later. Only the left wing liberal bleeding hearts will complain.

Up 40 Down 35

bonanzajoe on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:14 pm

With all these draconian Covid rules and regs, expect more. People are losing their freedoms, so they the need for other outlets. I said last year when this Covid thing started, this would happen. There is no need for all these rules.

Up 51 Down 34

Matthew on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:05 pm

That sucks. Worst thing is its 3x more than covid! Yet they are imposing their dictatorship on us all.. what's even worse is that we are letting them get away with it!

Up 45 Down 12

beaker on Feb 22, 2021 at 2:04 pm

Not important is all about the covid deaths, one to this day.

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