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UGTS’ contribution to decolonization and efforts to overcome addiction problems in our community

This month of December’s theme is about equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at Unique Get Together Society (UGTS). With the pressing needs of our society and living cost going up, our organization has found it urgent to help out with the drug and alcohol addiction in the Lower Mainland. An innovative concept was drafted a few months ago by founder Debra Abraham, Elders in the community, advisors and her Tribe.

First, let’s look at numbers. An interesting study found the following information among First Nations’ communities just the year the Covid-19 pandemic started: an increase of 119% in toxic drug deaths. This graph shows you the increasing gap between First Nations and other BC residents. Access to resources, treatment centers and support exist, but concerns have been raised in our community about the fairness of the system and numbers of the facilities in place. “The devastating impact of the toxic drug crisis on BC's First Nations people, families, and communities cannot be ignored", said Richard Jock, CEO of the First Nations Health Authority (First Nations Health Authority, 2022).

Source: First Nations Health Authority (2022).

Looking at the alarming increase of homeless people and drug or alcohol users on Vancouver’s downtown Eastside over the past year, it is not only the government’s responsibility to act: whether we are individuals, businesses, not-for-profit organizations like UGTS, we need to work together and try to help with the situation. The All Nations Healing Lodge concept came into light this year, with the idea of building and Indigenous-based drug and alcohol treatment facility in Kamloops, B.C based on the Seven Grandfather Teachings, a set of moral and ethical teachings derived from the Anishinaabe Nation, including Honesty, Respect, Courage, Love, Humility, Wisdom, and Truth. Here is how we envision the All Nations Healing Lodge:

  • 55 rooms and amenities

  • Large kitchen and dining area

  • Assistance in securing employment

  • Outdoor garden space

  • Child-care facility

  • Educational and employment training opportunities

Guidance will be provided by professionals, Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Traditional and alternative drug and alcohol addiction treatments and therapies have been in use in some regions of the world (American Addiction Center, 2022). According to the American Addiction Center (2022), “complementary and alternative approaches have been gaining a lot of traction in recent years, increasing the availability of these methods”. There is still ongoing research being developed around this topic, but some alternative techniques have been proven successful. The American Addiction Center (2022) lists a few ones such as Yoga and Mindfulness-based therapies, art therapy, or adventure therapy. The idea that UGTS has is to bring an important Indigenous component to therapy: with the intention of bringing back ancestral knowledge from the People for and with the People. Some skepticism and resistance with any of the traditional, alternative or modern techniques occur, but the goal of this not-for-profit is really to try to make a difference in the current situation.

Dr. Gabor Maté, a Hungarian Canadian physician and author who penned the book The Myth of Normal, is one of the world’s leading voices advocating for alternative addiction treatment. In his opinion, “the Downtown Eastside isn’t just Vancouver’s problem; it’s Canada’s”.

Stay tuned for our upcoming and exciting fundraising event. This one-of-its-kind event will aim to raise funds for the construction of the All Nations Healing Lodge that will help to cater to the needs of marginalized youth living with drug and alcohol addiction in our community.

Reference list:

Ali, A. (September 29, 2022). Vancouver’s downtown Eastside is a “problem of Canada: Gabor Maté. Daily Hive.

Khandwala, A (June 5, 2019). What Does It Mean to Decolonize Design?

AIGA Eye on Design.

First Nations Health Authority (2022). First Nations Toxic Drug Deaths doubled during the pandemic in 2020. Retrieved on December 1, 2022 from:

American Addiction Centers (2022). Alternative Treatments and Therapies for Addiction.

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