Implement a safe supply of drugs to prevent more deaths in the Yukon immediately.
What is the challenge?
Drug use and gender-based violence go hand in hand.
First and foremost, the Yukon’s opioid crisis is gendered. From the data we can tell that Yukon women, trans, non-binary, two-spirit, intersex and agender folks, and especially Indigenous women, are being hurt and killed by Yukon’s tainted drug supply more than anyone else. We do not have specific data for trans opioid deaths in the territory, but we do know that many of the factors that make this a crisis for indigenous women (trauma, racism, discrimination) in the Yukon are the same for 2SLGBTQQIA folks.
The 17 tragic deaths that occurred due to opioids in the Yukon from January 1st, 2022 to August 5th, 2022 we see that:
- 53% were male and 47% were female
- 71% were First nations citizens, and 29% were non First Nations Citizens
By comparison, in British Columbia, from January 1st, 2022 to May 31st, 2022, of opioid related deaths:
- 76% were male and 24% were female;
- In Canada, there were about 4000 opioid-related deaths in 2017. In British Columbia, the mortality rate for Indigenous people who use drugs is 5 times higher than for other drug users. Despite representing just 2.6% of the total population, Indigenous peoples account for 10% of overdose deaths.2,3 Indigenous women are 8 times more likely to have a nonfatal overdose and 5 times more likely to have a fatal overdose than non-Indigenous women.3 The severity of this crisis is likely understated owing to poor disaggregation of data on Indigenous Peoples in many settings
We have data that shows nationally that:
- Women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks who use drugs more commonly experience physical and sexual intimate partner violence than those that do not use drugs—three to five times higher, according to some studies.
- Punitive policies that separate women who use drugs from their children, together with shaming and hostility when accessing services, deter pregnant women and mothers from seeking drug treatment, prenatal care, and other health services
- Women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks with a history of drug use are considered unfit to parent, and pregnant women who use drugs may be pressured to have abortions or to give up their newborn infants
- Government officials, health care and social workers [are compelled by laws to] report folks who use drugs to child protective services, [which] may deter women and 2SLGBTQQIA+folks from seeking prenatal care or speaking openly with their doctors about their drug use and the best course of treatment for them.
- While men are more likely than women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks to be involved in drug possession, sale, and use, in most countries where data are available, a significantly higher proportion of women than men are imprisoned for drug-related offences
- Women and 2SLGBTQQIA+folks often become involved in the drug trade because poverty and discrimination limit their opportunities for education and employment. Many are single heads of households with multiple children and other dependents, pressured by family members or subject to violent coercion by recruiters linked with organized crime.
In addition, where there is very little research about the 2SLGBTQQIA community we do know that “the research consistently shows that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are at higher risk for problematic substance use, and sexual minority youth are anywhere from two to five times more likely to use drugs and alcohol than heterosexual youth”.
Detox and other mental health and drug use services are not always safe space for 2SLGTBQQIA+ folks either which create barriers to accessing care. Trans affirming, trauma, anti-racist, and violence informed care is needed.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN:
When we discriminate against people who use drugs to cope with the trauma cause by our discrimination against their race or identity, we create a vicious cycle of systemic abuse where our communities are not safe for all. We must end this cycle.
- Create legal and safe supply of drugs so that we can end the poisoning and killing of people who use drugs immediately.
- Create pathways to care that are safe (meaning free of racism, stigma and discrimination) for women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks so they can access the supports they need and be supported to preserve their families and thrive.
- Create programs and policies that apply a gender-based lens as well as lived experience to meet the unique needs of women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks.
WHAT CAN YOU DO:
- Learn more about how the opioid crisis and over and how stigma affects women and 2SLGBTQQIA folks+. Challenge your own assumptions about why people use and who "deserves" care.
- Call on the Yukon Government to implement safe supply now so that we can end deaths now.