A group of community members from the Blood Tribe held a rally on Wednesday to raise concerns over the detox centre, Bringing the Spirit Home.
It was organized by elder Roger Prairie Chicken. On Tuesday, Prairie Chicken had been terminated from his job as crisis coordinator at the Kainai Wellness Centre.
“The lawyer said employee conduct,” said Prairie Chicken when asked for the reason of his termination. “Faltering employee conduct. But I was just voicing my concerns for the people.”
He said those concerns centered around “housing and voicing concerns for the rights of the grassroots people.”
Prairie Chicken added giving community members the chance to speak and be heard, was the reason he organized the rally.
Some of the concerns raised during the rally included allegations of staff members dealing drugs in Bringing the Spirit Home and leaders not taking their worries seriously.
“These detox centres are meant for people to be, health wise, get in shape, then they’re shipped off to treatment,” community member Ronnie Scout said. “But it seems to me this detox centre in Stand Off is a road block for a lot of them.”
On Thursday, The Blood Tribe Department of Health released a statement addressing the allegations made during Wednesday’s rally.
“The Department of Health recognizes the important voice of our community members in trying to address the addiction crisis facing our community and communities across Canada,” the statement read.
“However, the suggestion that drug dealing takes place at Bringing the Spirit Home is inaccurate and we are disappointed that community members would make such an allegation when this could not be further from the truth.”
The statement also addressed Prairie Chicken’s termination.
“With respect to the assertion that a Department of Health employee was terminated for ‘speaking out’, this is not accurate. Human Resource matters are private and confidential and the Department of Health cannot comment on decisions related to matters of this nature.”
Global News asked the Blood Tribe Department of Health more specific questions, including whether clients and staff at the centre are drug tested and whether an overdose has ever happened at Bringing the Spirit Home.
Those questions were not answered, but Blood Tribe Department of Health CEO Derrick Fox said allegations were investigated internally and “deemed to be unsubstantiated and without merit.”
The Blood Tribe Police Service told Global News they have received a wide variety of complaints at the detox centre from staff and security, but none alleging staff members bringing drugs into the facility. There has only been one complaint made about a client bringing drugs into the detox centre, but no charges were laid due to insufficient evidence.
Still, the opioid crisis continues to hit the Blood Tribe hard. The Kainai Wellness Centre reported 91 Blood Tribe members died from a drug overdose between April 2020 and March 2021.
And it hits home for everyone.
“We see our neighbor drive by with his back hoe. He’s the one that goes and digs up the graves,” Blood Tribe elder Charlotte Plume said. “We don’t even know half of the time whose funeral it is. We are having funerals every day it seems like.
“We are tired of losing our loved ones to the drugs.”
In May, Blood Tribe Chief and Council released a statement acknowledging the concern and urgency of the situation. A task force was created to “concentrate on immediate concerns on addressing drug trafficking, dealing, recovery supports and help for families.” Actions will be measured in the first 30, 60 and 90 days.