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‘This is an emergency’: Federal minister re-announces $2 million already flowing for substance use, addictions programs in the Yukon

Territory’s substance use health emergency strategy could be released by the end of May
Federal Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett re-announces $2 million in substance use and addictions program funding for the Yukon during a press conference in the media room at the territory’s legislative building in Whitehorse on March 4. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Canada’s Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett is re-announcing just over $2 million that is already flowing for substance use and addictions programs in the Yukon.

“This is an emergency,” Bennett said during a press conference in a media room at the Yukon legislature alongside Yukon MP Brendan Hanley and Yukon’s Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee in Whitehorse on April 4.

“It is important now that we have to do something bold and different.”

The re-announcement comes more than a year into a Yukon government-declared territory-wide substance use health emergency and amid states of emergencies declared by and for the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, the latter just days after two Whitehorse men were shot and killed in the community of Mayo on March 11.

A substance use health emergency strategy for the territory could be released by the end of May, pending feedback from First Nations government leaders, McPhee said. The draft strategy was not provided to the News.

Bennett cited some stark and familiar statistics: Yukon’s chief coroner reported 25 deadly overdoses attributed to toxic substances, 19 of which involved fentanyl, in 2022 and in the first three months of the year, the territory’s death rate was three times the national average at 74.4 per 100,000 people.

An email from the federal office’s press secretary Maja Staka breaks down the funding Bennett referred to.

According to the email, it includes just under $1.75 million to Selkirk First Nation for a traditional healing program to deal with “serious issues of addiction and mental health challenges resulting from intergenerational Indian residential school trauma in the remote and isolated Selkirk First Nation traditional territory.”

In the email, starting Feb. 24, the project is intended to come up with a program for people to share their experiences, provide traditional knowledge and links to counsellors, and deliver healing camps and professional development.

It also includes $360,000 to the Yukon government over 26 months, starting Feb. 2, to hire a social worker to help people who use substances navigate the system in Whitehorse.

Bennett said data is needed to show what’s working and what’s not.

“We’ve got to be able to find what works and stop funding what doesn’t work,” she said.

“I don’t know of anything that’s not working in the Yukon. But I do think that some of the traditional 30-day treatment programs have not shown to be effective in terms of revolving doors.”

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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