July 17th, 2024

Piikani declares state of emergency over drug crisis

By Lethbridge Herald on January 3, 2024.

Piikani Chief and Council, seen here during their inauguration ceremony last year, have declared a state of emergency as the Piikani Nation grapples with the drug crisis on the reserve. Herald file photo by Ry Clarke

Theodora MacLeod – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chief of Piikani Nation Troy Knowlton, and his council have officially issued a state of emergency for the reserve, located west of Lethbridge, near the town of Pincher Creek.

 It comes as drug related overdoses continue to plague the community.

“In the last week, we have seen several deaths. These deaths will be marked with sorrow throughout the nation,” said Knowlton in a statement released on Wednesday.

 “The situation affecting our nation is not unique to us. Drugs, especially opioids and fentanyl, may prove to be the public policy challenge of the century, affecting every community from coast to coast.” 

From Jan. 2016 to June 2023, there were “40,642 apparent opioid toxicity deaths” across the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. 3,970 of those deaths occurred between January and June 2023, averaging 22 deaths per day.

 Alberta is among the provinces most impacted with 1,411 opioid drug related poisoning deaths reported in the first eight months of 2023. Of Alberta’s city’s, Lethbridge ranks the highest for opioid related deaths per 100,000 people. 

“It is my goal, and the goal of my council, to bring an end to or at least significantly reduce the availability of drugs and to prevent deaths among those who have had their lives ensnared by drugs,” Knowlton declared. Enacting the federal Emergencies Act section 17(1), Piikani Nation says measures will be taken to combat the issue, such as drug prevention initiatives, additional supports to agencies helping to address drug use and its side-effects, and improvements to emergency treatment. 

Additionally, Chief and council say they will be working closely with local RCMP to address supply sources, especially drug traffickers and gangs. 

Knowlton assures residents that all acts under the state of emergency will be in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and will be “carefully monitored to limit any impact on the rights of law-abiding Piikani citizens.”

“In a tight-knit community like ours, the impacts of drugs, especially addiction and tragically death, particularly among our youth, reverberate pain throughout our entire nation,” Knowlton said. “This is a long-term and complicated issue. But we believe the way to start mediating the problem is to start now. We have done that. My personal sympathies go out to the families of the youth who have been taken from us. They can be assured, however, that we will offer more than sympathy. We are acting.”

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old school

Policing and political will, along with the courts and legal system dealing harshly with those involved in drug manufacture, selling/ dealing and use of illegal drugs. Scumbag legal system / judges treat political prisoners in a most disgusting way . Those involved in drug trade don’t even get a slap on the wrist.


For us as a society, to watch and enable such a large number of addicts to kill themselves by poisoning their bodies with drugs, is the Real crime. What we are doing is failing them as the overdoses are increasing. Jail or recovery. It’s their choice as they have lost the choice to safely take Any drug without consequences to themselves, or those around them. As for drug prevention, it needs to start at the very onset of birth if a child is born in a high-risk home environment. That, only the Indigenous can help with the support of their healthy members. By the time they reach outside reserve resources, it’s too late. Until this happens, addiction will forever be on the reserves until All Indigenous youth are plagued with addiction in one form or another.


We need a federal government who stops enabling and encouraging addicts to continue in their addictions, by all their failed drug policies that BC have proven after 20 years of harm reduction, do not work.
We must get tough on the criminals who are manufacturing and selling these drugs and have real penalties that are feared by these criminals.
They know that drugs kill the addicts and it should be classified as manslaughter, at the very least, for manufacturing and selling opioids.
Years ago we had programs SAY NO TO DRUGS and police and the courts were tough on those who sold and manufactured drugs. It wasn’t perfect, but it dramatically reduced drug use and especially the deaths that occurred.
We need increased treatment beds, increased drug courts so that small dealer who is usually an addict, and addicts can get treatment, instead of jail, but those treatment programs must be effective and not a quick 3 month program.
The only way we are going to get the laws and legislation in place is by putting in place a federal government that is willing to enact these policies and move away from harm reduction policies, and focus on the effective treatment of addicts, increased policing against dealers and manufacturers, and changes in our penal systems. There should be no drugs in our penitentiaries and no need for safe drug consumption sites in these facilities . . . they are supposed to be secure facilities and there are ways to stop the flow of drugs into them, but one must be willing to take those steps! Our current government has lost focus on this country and seems to portray an international focus more than the issues of our own country, with the PM always in the air on his plane heading to another country, often insulting them with his unsolicited advise.
Indigenous communities must stop banishing drug dealers and users from their communities and get them either into treatment or jail, instead of pushing them from the community, where they end up in cities and in Lethbridge, which I call the ‘Killing Fields’, where some only last a few months before fatally overdosing and others a couple of years. Once they end up on the streets here, there is little hope they will ever survive and die a slow and painful death where the streetlife and drugs destroy their bodies, minds and souls!
Harm reduction has been tried for over 20 years in BC and BC is tangible proof it is a failed experiment . . . one that has killed thousands!
The Indigenous have suffered the highest percentage of deaths from this crisis and they are losing not just one generation, but two now! This must end!
We must wake up and make the changes now because the same organized crime that supplies the drugs is also involved in the human trafficking, child pornography/exploitation, guns sales, chop shops, etc., and it has allowing them to grow and spread like cancer!
The Alberta government has been making changes, realizing the mistakes in BC, but we need to go further! Fatal overdoses have increased across North America, not just in Alberta, or Lethbridge, including BC and with all the policies BC has implemented, fatal overdoses, the numbers of addicts, crime, etc., continue to grow.
Time to return to what worked in the past, but with drug courts and more treatment programs available . . it is cheaper financially by far and will save many more lives and destroy less families and communities!
The feds continue to compound the crisis with its BC directed policies, and now is even pushing medically assisted suicide on drug addicted persons. That is their answer!
Time for change!!!! Save our Nation!!!

Last edited 6 months ago by ewingbt

Indigenous communities have been banishing their dealers and users for years now, to mostly Lethbridge. Where is their compassion and patience that we are supposed to have soo much of?

Guy Lethbridge

If you look around the world , the countries with the hardest penalties have the least drug problems. In comparison, we almost encourage it , then surprisingly, it becomes an emergency…

Instead of legalizing it and hoping for the best , we need to go the other direction.

old school

Totally right. Severe penalties will fix the problem. As Ewingbt states we have a government that encourages and supports and promotes drug use. President Duterte of the Philippines approached the problem in a proactive way. Our governments could example from him.


You kidding? Really? Duterte used it as a way to murder people.


given your comment, it seems you are sick, very sick


all the negs to support the nasty, wicked, dictator duterte…you folks are creepy.


people have every right to have the final say around their body.
we would be wise to supplant the synthetic toxins with legal, affordable, natural products. we have all seen what happens when we drive things underground – it is ugly. our approach with liquor has been acceptable, and has saved many from overdoses and poisoning and death. of course, there will always be those that cannot help but abuse whatever they choose to abuse. however, overall, acknowledging and respecting the right of each to their body, and ensuring product safety, we are far better off.


You are too young to know that in the 70’s harsh penalties and anti-drug policies saved lives.
You fail to understand addiction by stating: people have every right to have the final say around their body.”
Safe drugs that were precribed for injuries and pain are what got many addicted so that blows your theory out of the water sky high!
If you think watching someone slowly kill themselves while living on the streets in Hell is humane, then thank God that you have no power in directing our governments!
The drugs soon destroy their brains, cause so much damage to their bodies that they walk like 90 year olds, and steals their soul. There is NO comparison that can be made to Fentanyl addiction vs alcohol addiction . . . none!
I will not comment any further to this, since you now will go on your usual rant. Sad that someone who is an addict fails to see clearly what these drugs do to a person and so society!


respectfully, i also see the fallout from addictions to the synthetics that abound in our society. your statement, “Safe drugs that were precribed for injuries and pain are what got many addicted so that blows your theory out of the water sky high!”, actually supports my point: those drugs to which you refer, so-called “safe” drugs (safe, why, because they come from pharm labs, derived of serial animal torture to boot?) are not now and were not then “safe.” they are synthetic, and are difficult on the body, quite unlike natural products. not to say there are not addictions around actual opium, but the effects and fallout are far, far less insidious.
i stand by my points: people have every right to their choices around their body, and have the final say with regard to their body; synthetic drugs are the issue, and certainly must be curtailed; the best way to remedy the situation, while respecting the inherent right of each to their body is to legalise, have quality control over the natural products (as has worked well enough with liquor), and provide the natural products as cheaply as they are to produce. and, plants and shrubs are indeed cheap to produce, so that there is no crime needed to support any addiction – think coffee, which is one of the most costly plants to bring into everyday consumption, and yet no one steals to support that habit.