Government of Canada supports efforts to better understand how substance use affects Indigenous communities

News release

Three new projects will collect data and help address the opioid crisis

July 25, 2019 - Ottawa, Ontario - Public Health Agency of Canada

Supporting the health and well-being of Indigenous communities and strengthening hope and resilience in these communities are essential parts of addressing substance-related harms and the opioid crisis. Indigenous partners have underlined the link between intergenerational trauma and higher rates of substance use.

Today, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, announced approximately $3 million in funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada for three projects to increase understanding of the impact of the opioid crisis and substance-related harms on Indigenous communities. Enhancing the evidence base will support Indigenous communities in preventing and addressing the impacts of problematic substance use, including opioids, and help to fill related knowledge gaps. 

The Manitoba Metis Federation will receive more than $900,000 for its project Understanding the Opioid Crisis Among Manitoba Métis: Evidence to Support Interventions. The project will:

  • gather evidence on prescription opioid use in the Manitoba Métis population; 
  • compare the rates of prescription opioid use in the Métis population with those of other Manitobans; 
  • describe patterns of use and associated health and social outcomes among Métis citizens;
  • describe the use of alcohol, cannabis, prescription and non-prescription opioids, other illegal drugs, and associated outcomes in the Manitoba Métis population; and
  • share evidence with Métis community leaders and citizens.

The National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation Inc. (Thunderbird Partnership Foundation) will receive more than $1 million for its First Nations Opioid Surveillance Project. This project will implement the First Nations (Adult) Opioid Survey and pilot the First Nations Youth Opioid Survey to provide national, regional and community-level insights into opioid use and its impacts on First Nations communities. The adult survey will be implemented in at least 27 communities across the country and the youth survey will be piloted in at least 9 communities nationwide to inform the development and evaluation of policy, prevention and treatment interventions at the local level. This work will complement ongoing efforts with First Nations communities and partners to support the development and implementation of culturally based and holistic healing approaches to problematic substance use.

The First Nation Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba will receive approximately $1 million for its project Opioid and Substance Usage Amongst First Nations, Counting the Truth to Affect Change. This organization will work with the Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre to better inform policy, strategies and interventions to address the opioid crisis in First Nations in Alberta and Manitoba by:

  • addressing gaps in much needed data; 
  • capturing, analyzing and sharing baseline data;
  • helping to identify how health care is used and how needs are assessed in each region; and
  • identifying and sharing best practices.


“Supporting Indigenous communities in building a culturally appropriate evidence base is key to addressing substance-related harms and the opioid crisis in those communities. There is no issue more important to me as Canada’s Minister of Health than the opioid crisis. It is one of the most serious public health issues facing Canada.”

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

“Too many parents, siblings, partners and children—Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike—have been touched by the opioid crisis. Accurate and culturally relevant data is crucial to informing our collaborative work to address and end this crisis and, as Indigenous Services Minister, I’m proud to support Indigenous governments and communities to effectively prevent and address the impacts of opioids.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan
Minister of Indigenous Services

“We are all aware that opioid use disorder is taking a toll in our population. This is a concern for all Manitoba Métis citizens. Our Elders have told us we need to look out for the health and wellbeing of our people. Opioid dependency and misuse can effect anyone, and harms not only individuals but also their families and the Métis Community in which they live. We need to respond now to avoid even more serious issues in the future. With the support of the Public Health Agency of Canada, we are moving forward with a plan that includes gathering Western-based health, social and justice knowledge, as well as the experiential knowledge of Métis citizens. By understanding the scope of this problem, we will be able to create culturally informed programs and services to ensure health and wellness for our children, youth and Métis families.”

Audrey Frances Chartrand, Manitoba Metis Federation, Minister of Health & Wellness, and Early Learning and Child Care

“We are committed to supporting First Nations in advancing a culturally based and community governed response to opioid-related issues at the individual, family and community level. Data will enable First Nations in telling a story of the inequities that must also be addressed for First Nations communities to survive the opioid crisis. Reducing the harms of opioids is ensured through the culturally based strengths of First Nations, as well as through the many necessary partners that share responsibility for influencing wellness among First Nations.”

Carol Hopkins, Executive Director, National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation (Thunderbird Partnership Foundation)

“We are coming together to share best practices and successful interventions, and highlight challenges, to create an opioid strategy that is reflective of First Nations indicators of wellbeing. This project will provide data linkages that could then inform health care for First Nations. This is a collaborative effort that aims to reduce health inequities amongst First Nations by providing the evidence to effectively address the opioid crisis amongst First Nations within our regions.”

Leona Star, First Nation Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Director of Research

Quick facts

  • Indigenous communities have been disproportionally affected by the opioid crisis, and the use of opioids and other substances continues to be a serious concern in some Indigenous communities.

  • The Government of Canada’s efforts to support Indigenous people in addressing the opioid crisis include:

    • distributing public awareness wallet cards about signs of an overdose, through more than 55 Indigenous and First Nations groups;
    • enhancing delivery of culturally appropriate substance use treatment and prevention services in First Nations and Inuit communities; 
    • supporting comprehensive, wraparound care at community-based opioid agonist treatment sites in First Nations and Inuit communities; 
    • funding Isuarsivik Inuit Nation to support reconstruction of its treatment centre; and
    • facilitating access to naloxone, including in remote and isolated First Nations and Inuit communities.
  • Indigenous Services Canada plays an important part in this collaborative effort by supporting Indigenous, culturally sensitive, community-based approaches to problematic substance use that include prevention, treatment and harm reduction with targeted strategies based on specific client and community priorities.

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Public Health Agency of Canada
Thierry Bélair
Office of Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Inquiries:

Contacts (Indigenous Services Canada)
Kevin Deagle
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Seamus O'Regan
Minister of Indigenous Services

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

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