Opioid-Related Toxicity and Deaths Continue to Rise among First Nations in Ontario

Press Release

(Toronto, ON – November 23, 2023) – The Chiefs of Ontario (COO) and Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare made the following statement regarding the opioid overdose crisis and the death toll rise affecting Ontario First Nations.

First Nations in Ontario have been disproportionately affected by the opioid overdose crisis, which has greatly affected both families and communities. COO is pleased to provide the first annual update to the Opioid Use, Related Harms, and Access to Treatment among First Nations in Ontario. This work was completed under the guidance of a dedicated First Nations Steering Committee and in collaboration with the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

“The opioid epidemic has been disrupting families and communities across Ontario,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “The Chiefs of Ontario and Ontario Drug Policy Research Network report demonstrates the urgent need for access to opioid treatment and harm reduction services for communities to heal from the underlying systemic racism and intergenerational trauma experienced by many First Nations.”

Through the Chiefs of Ontario’s work, it is evident that there has been an increase in opioid-related toxicity and deaths, despite the prescription of opioids for the treatment of pain declining.

From 2013-2021, opioid use was higher among First Nations, particularly those living outside of the community, when compared to non-First Nations in Ontario. Since 2017, First Nations have seen an increase in opioid-related toxicity, primarily due to the presence of fentanyl in the unregulated drug supply.

The number of First Nations whose deaths were attributed to opioid-related toxicity tripled from 2019 to 2021. According to the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario’s Drug and Drug-Alcohol Related Database, 190 First Nations people in Ontario died as a result of opioid-related toxicity in 2021, in comparison to 61 in 2019.

“The decades-long war on drugs has not worked, especially for our people who are already overrepresented in the criminal justice system,” said Regional Chief Hare. “People need to be supported culturally and spiritually in dealing with mental health and substance use disorders.”

This report underlines the importance of recognizing the need for accessible resources and harm reduction services to prevent further opioid-related deaths amongst First Nations in Ontario. The report also provides evidence that problems continue to escalate and governments need to work with First Nations to adequately fund community-led solutions that will meet the needs of each First Nation. We must bring all sectors together to build sustainable prevention and treatment programs to make real progress and prevent future tragedies.

The full report titled “Opioid Use, Related Harms, and Access to Treatment among First Nations in Ontario” and accompanying graphics can be found here: https://odprn.ca/research/publications/opioid-use-related-harms-and-access-to-treatment-among-first-nations-in-ontario/


The Chiefs of Ontario support all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction and their chosen expression of nationhood. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @ChiefsOfOntario.

Media Contact:

Chiefs of Ontario

Chris Hoyos
Director of Policy and Communications
Policy and Communications Sector
Chiefs of Ontario
Cell: (416) 579-4998
Email: Chris.Hoyos@coo.org


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