Photo by CP/Darryl Dyck

Young Indigenous People Who Use Drugs Are Dying at ‘Appalling’ Rates

In BC, they’re 13 times more likely to die compared to other youth in Canada.

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Nov 6 2017, 8:27pm

Photo by CP/Darryl Dyck

A study published Monday indicates that young Indigenous people who use illicit drugs in BC are 13 times more likely to die compared to all other Canadians of the same age group.

Conducted between 2003 and 2014, the study traced the lives of 610 young people. Of those 610 included in the study, 40 died. The most common cause of death amongst those in the study was overdose.

"The death rates among young Indigenous people who use drugs reported in this study are appalling and must be viewed as a public health and human rights issue," the study, which was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, concludes.

Within the study, women were more likely to die than men: 65 percent of the 40 people who died over the course of the study were women. Those who participated in injection drug use were also more likely to die. And though overdose was the number one cause of death amongst those in the study, illness (including hepatitis C and HIV) and suicide were the next most common causes.

The study is part of an ongoing project with the Cedar Project, a research group focused on Indigenous people between the ages of 14 and 30 who use illicit drugs in Vancouver and Prince George, BC (on Coast Salish and Lheidli T'enneh territories, respectively).

Authors of the study made mention of how colonial policy in Canada and the residential school system is tied to statistics such as these.

"Elevated mortality among Indigenous people in Canada has historical roots in colonial policy," the study says. "Colonization has involved forced displacement from traditional territories, epidemics, systemic violence and death."

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