Assembly of First Nations Supports National Strategy on Prescription Drug Abuse, Inclusive of First Nations

OTTAWA, March 27, 2013 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo expressed support for a national strategy on prescription drug abuse launched today by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).

"The Assembly of First Nations welcomed the opportunity to be part of the development of this national strategy along with other Indigenous organizations," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. "A number of factors must be considered when applying recommendations to First Nation peoples and communities, and the inclusive and collaborative approach taken in the development of this Strategy provided a solid foundation for the development of an effective action plan.  I encourage the CCSA to work in partnership with First Nation communities and regional and national partners as they work to implement the Strategy's recommendations."

The Strategy, entitled, First Do No Harm: Responding to Canada's Prescription Drug Crisis, was developed around five streams of action: prevention, education, treatment, monitoring and surveillance, and enforcement. Together, these action streams aim to prevent prescription drug-related harms to individuals, families and communities; educate and empower the public and promote healthy and safe communities; and promote appropriate prescribing and dispensing practices among healthcare practitioners, all while providing a contextual lens to First Nation, geographically remote, isolated and rural populations.

It is acknowledged throughout the document that key concepts must be used as the context for recommendations as applied to First Nation people in Canada. These concepts include: historical and cultural context; social determinants of health for First Nations; trauma and intergenerational trauma; cultural competency and safety; Elders and Indigenous knowledge; remote, isolated and rural communities; and jurisdiction and governance, whether at the individual, family, community, provincial or national level.

"The harms related to prescription drug misuse are an issue that has been a concern for the Chiefs of Ontario for some time," said AFN Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, chair of the Chiefs Committee on Health. "Today the Chiefs of Ontario are encouraged by the report, which aligns well with the Chiefs of Ontario Take A Stand report. We are also encouraged that the national strategy contextualizes the needs of First Nations, rural, remote and isolated communities.  It promotes the importance of First Nations culture, knowledge and healing practices, all of which First Nation communities have used along with western medicine to successfully address the crisis that has existed in First Nations communities in Ontario."

As reported by Health Canada in 2011, First Nation communities participating in a national survey between 2008-2010, reported that alcohol and drug use and abuse was considered to be the number one challenge for community wellness faced by on-reserve communities (82.6% of respondents), followed by housing (70.7%) and employment (65.9%). The same report cited a growing population of First Nation people who identify their psychological pain or trauma and associated prescription drug use as being linked to their experience in residential schools and child welfare.

The national strategy will be available on the CCSA website at

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.


For further information:

Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or

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