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    Community Press & News

    Community Press & News provides links to stock photos, Public Service Announcements and Press Releases which may be of interest to the media or the community at large. If you need additional information, or would like assistance in arranging a media event or interview, please contact:


    Heather Nelson-Smith

    Chief Administrative Officer

    District of Port Hardy

    PO Box 68

    Port Hardy, BC V0N 2P0

    Tel: 250 949 6665


    Mayor’s Message on Health February 27, 2024

    February 28, 2024

    The last few weeks have been a horrible time for our town and the surrounding communities, and the deaths weigh heavily on myself, the council, and the DPH employees. There have been many social media posts containing false information or creating dissension. These posts get many comments and spread like wildfire. Unfortunately, the posts refuting them are not shared as widely, and the ‘false’ posts are never deleted. Many comments have been that the mayor and council have been doing nothing. It is not an easy time for our North Island community. As Mayor and Council, we extend our deepest condolences to those impacted by the many losses we are all experiencing. Everyone in our community matters, and every loss our community has experienced is profound. Please reach out for help and support.

    At this time, I want to talk and summarize a bit about what we, as Mayor and Council, have been doing regarding the health of our community.

    First, a bit of background:

    When I was first elected to the council in 2014, I was appointed to the Mount Waddington Health Network. It was at that time I learned about how the service agencies in the area work together. As part of the MWHN mandate looking at the social determinants of health, in 2012, they released a comprehensive Addictions and Recovery Plan as a result of years of community engagement and consultation. The Change Together—A Healing Journey Microsoft Word – FINAL_MW Addiction and Recovery Services Plan_Sept.2012 ( report was finalized in response to substance use concerns in the Mount Waddington region. There was various impetus for this report, including recommendations from the Mount Waddington Health Network, recommendations from coroner’s reports and calls for action related to the deaths of Debbie Coon, Albert Prevost, and Duane Nelson. Community members and regional organizations began meeting to formulate a response to the grossly inadequate continuum of care. The process of community engagement took multiple years, creating space for story sharing from Elders, young people, family members, persons with lived experience, service providers, and many others talking about their struggles, resiliency and hopes for the future. The report and recommendations were endorsed by all 16 local First Nations governments, all north island municipalities, the regional district, and the Island Health Board; this plan now titled A CONCERTED EFFORT Substance Use and Recovery Services Plan was subsequently updated in 2021. 73cc14_c13e9a6065f740d4aa72981af1c16c91.pdf (

    As Dean Wilson said in the 2021 introduction, “The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations, as well as other First Nations, took part in developing the first Mount Waddington Addiction and Recovery Services Plan. This was the first major comprehensive partnership of the Health Authority, Indigenous communities, non-indigenous communities, and service providers around this issue in our area.

    The results were helpful as they guided much of our ongoing work and contributed to some of our community priorities. The experience was also empowering, strengthening

    our collective responsibilities to support families and some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. The plan was the first tangible step in our decision to work together more fully, seek gaps and share resources – and responsibility. This has continued and been a hallmark of our work over the years.

    This plan revision allows us to adjust to the new needs and issues; many, like COVID-19 and the overdose epidemic, were not anticipated in our first iteration. We have had the opportunity to review what worked and what required revision and celebrate recent successful and promising initiatives. The willingness of the North Island residents to pull together, to examine our issues, and seek solutions is one of our great strengths.”

    As a result of the 2012 Plan, the North Island has many similar services that are offered in the Vancouver downtown east side, e.g. ICMT, managed alcohol program, plus many other Harm Reduction services.

    Many recommendations from the 2012 and 2021 reports have been worked on and are being worked on—for example, the Port Hardy Foundry. The DPH worked diligently and endlessly with the MWHN and the NI Crisis Centre to advocate and apply for funding to become the first rural Foundry to open in BC. The Port Hardy Foundry is doing fantastic in its location and wants to expand in September. In this expansion, there will be youth activity areas. If individuals are interested in donating to the Foundry Port Hardy to help with these initiatives, please get in touch with them.

    Second, I’d like to address some of the comments we are all reading online:

    Comment: People are dying at a rapid rate, and we should do something about it and work together with the nations to do something about it.

    Response: Yes, they are. It is horrible, and it is heartbreaking, and our hearts are heavy for the families, friends, First Responders, counsellors, volunteers, and everyone who is affected!

    I can not speak to the numbers but know that the recent surge in fatalities underscores the tragic nature of the events, leaving an unknown number of lives affected. I would suggest not sharing numbers unless it comes from an official release.Yes, we would like it to change too – in the North Island, in every town of BC, in Canada, and the US. In April 2016, the province of BC declared a public health emergency in response to an alarming increase in overdose deaths. Sadly, the latest coroner report reveals that the unregulated drug poisoning crisis continues, with an unprecedented death rate of 6 people dying each day and over 10,000 dead in BC since 2016. As part of the provincial overdose response, there has been an unparalleled investment in community-based harm reduction services, which are proven to save the lives of those at the highest risk of substance-related harm. In BC, research has shown that scaling up community-based naloxone distribution, supervised consumption sites, overdose prevention sites, harm reduction education, and outreach services has saved countless lives: modelling data suggests that from April 2016 to December 2017 alone, over 3,000 deaths were prevented by these interventions.

     Comment: The GMAP (Gwad’zi Managed Alcohol Program) is to blame and should be stopped.

     Response: The GMAP program is a recognized Harm Reduction Program. Very few of the deaths were of clients who actively worked with GMAP. Most of the deaths that were alcohol-related were from clients not on MAP programs. One of the deaths was from the severely dirty drug supply on the North Island. Some of the deaths were from suicide or overconsumption of alcohol or from the compounding effects of living in poverty with mental and physical health issues and no housing.

     Comox Valley Community Substance Use Strategy – Phase Two Report Back (

    Comment: Our [the Councils’] heads are in the sand.

     Response: This comment was very disappointing and sad to receive as our Council is recognized by the North Island Public Health Medical Officer as champions of community health.

    There is an overwhelming desire in Mount Waddington to change the course of substance use and chart a new path towards a healthier and cohesive life for everyone involved. Our Council has been proactive and committed to trying to improve the health of everyone in Port Hardy and surrounding communities.

    We worked hard with the North Island Crisis and Counselling Center (NICCS) to apply for funding to get Foundry (which offers young people between 12 and 24 & their families free counselling, peer support and health care). Port Hardy’s Foundry is the first rural Foundry to be open in BC.

    Extreme weather shelter run by the Salvation Army, with some funding from the DPH to support additional beds and increased hours through grant funding. As well there is the Sobering and Assessment Center run by the NICCS.

    Safer Place to Be Pilot Project – Let’s Talk About a Safer Place To Be (recording available) – Port Hardy

    Situation Table Press release Situation Table

    The CAO and I have met with the provincially funded Community Action Initiative to discuss a dialogue event with the DPH government and local health/community resources around substance-use-related challenges to support local governments in this work as it intersects with their mandates. This event is scheduled for April.

    This is not just a DPH Mayor and Council issue – this is a whole North Island issue, a whole Vancouver Island Issue, a whole BC issue, and a whole Canada issue. As Mayor along with Councillor Dugas, we attended a meeting with many of the hereditary chiefs from several nations and matriarchs and health reps, Island Health, council reps from our surrounding nations, and members from organizations, all coming together as one to work on a plan for our communities. As has been stated repeatedly, this is a result of intergenerational trauma. The plan forward needs to be led by our Indigenous Nations with the support they need and ask for.

    Comment: No one is listening to the North Island

    Response: I am not sure who no one is, but yes, people are listening and reaching out to help. For example, MLA Babchuk has been actively advocating for us. She has promptly alerted several ministers about the ongoing crisis and its severity. I know definitively she has been in direct contact with me, with GNN leaders, with the NICCS, plus with others.

    Comment: There are no services

    Response: Yes there are! For example:

    • Foundry Port Hardy
    • North Island Crisis & Counselling
    • Youth Short-Term Assessment and Response (Y-STAR) Port Hardy
    • 250-902-6063 ext. 66962  7 days a week/365 days a year
    • KUU-US CRISIS LINE SOCIETY 24 Hours TOLL-FREE: 1-800-588-8717
    • Port Hardy Community Medical Centre – drop in times available
    • Primary Health Center – drop-in times available
    • Adult Mental Health Office 250-902-6051
    • Vancouver Island Crisis Line 1-888-494-3888
    • Suicide support hotline 988
    • One-on-One Counselling from Homewood Health | Wounded Warriors Canada
    • GNN Counsellor Alex 250-230-5964 and Family Support Nora 250-230-1465.

    Comment: We need strong leadership and collaboration between the municipality and the leaders of all the Indigenous First Nations in the North Island to work together alongside Island Health and other service providers to find solutions so that this crisis doesn’t continue to escalate.

    Response: We are all working together. As Mayor, along with Councillor Dugas, we attended a meeting with many of the hereditary chiefs from several nations and matriarchs and health reps, Island Health, council reps from our surrounding nations, members from organizations, all coming together as one to work on a plan for our communities. There is another meeting planned for next week that we will be attending.

    Island Health has been meeting to bring more support to the north island to help in this time of crisis. IH is standing in solidarity with the Nations in the area and awaiting direction for additional support to the communities.

    Comment: please call a state of emergency in the town and call upon the premier of B.C. and the prime minister to do more to help. We need national attention on the issues we are facing here.

    Response: We are heartsick at all the deaths. Yes, it needs to change and not escalate – in the North Island, every town of BC, Canada, and the US. Opioid deaths were declared a public health emergency six years ago. In the north island, the rates of overdoses are rising exponentially due to toxic drugs. Unfortunately, we can not declare a state of emergency – to declare a SOLE, emergency response powers must be considered necessary to respond to an emergency. These powers may affect peoples’ rights and freedoms. Local authorities should only use them when no other reasonably achievable options are available. The most frequently cited reasons for a SOLE declaration are to facilitate the mandatory evacuation of people and livestock and the need to access private property when public safety is threatened or to take emergency measures. Currently, agencies (local/Island Health/FNHA) are working together to offer support and help.

    Embracing the call to action, we have been boldly exploring and advocating additional avenues and intensifying our efforts to make a lasting impact on our community.

    For instance, the Mayor and Council are fervently advocating for barrier-free recreation, ensuring that public skating and swimming times are inclusive for all. Discussions are underway to secure funding for two full-time Youth Support Workers, recognizing the imperative of sustainable support beyond volunteers. Moreover, Minister Farnworth’s suggestion to pursue Peer Assisted Care Team funding will be presented to our Indigenous Partners for their thoughtful consideration. As aptly articulated by Councillor Texmo, “in these challenging times, our community, our family, stands united in lifting each other up”. The collaborative endeavours of leaders across our communities are actively forging transformative solutions.

    In conclusion, let’s be mindful of our words online. As Brené Brown wisely noted, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Before making bold statements online or elsewhere, seek clarity and ensure your words align with the truth. Responsible communication not only preserves the efforts of our community but also fosters a culture of trust and solidarity.


    Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt