SUBMITTED PHOTO The two-day health conference, hosted by Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre (SWFC) in partnership with Island Health (VIHA) and First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), happens March 6-7 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on both days, ending with Indigenous ceremonies at a Big House.

PRESS RELEASE: Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre to host Harm Reduction Conference

The event is hosted by Sacred Wolf with Island Health and First Nations Health Authority.

A Port Hardy-based service provider will host a free Harm Reduction Conference at the Port Hardy Civic Centre next week, which will reduce barriers to care, stigma and the impact of the opiate crisis.

The two-day event, hosted by Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre (SWFC) in partnership with Island Health (VIHA) and First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), happens from March 6-7, 2019 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. both days, ending with Indigenous ceremonies at a Big House.

“There was funding available for people to launch grassroots initiatives locally in Fall 2017 when asked for proposals,” Garth Holden, interim president of SWFC’s board of directors, said. “We’ve had a working group up here comprised of First Nations health centres, Vancouver Island Health Authority,” and a number of other organizations.

The interim president mentioned there was funding to address the ongoing opioid crisis in B.C.

“We talked to our partners, Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre stepped up and talked about doing some training on local harm reduction and opiate crisis response in the community. The harm reduction conference seemed like a perfect way to do that,” he added. “It’s a really inclusive event. There’s so much happening in the substance use field,” having emphasized the importance of dialogues on how to address the issues in the field.

In partnership with VIHA and FNHA with support of local service providers and First Nation communities, the event will have a few keynote speakers who will talk on harm reduction. Some speakers include Annita McPhee, former president of Tahltan Nation and now a facilitator and communications professional, as well as Dr. Bernie Pauly, associate professor who researches harm reduction at University of Victoria.

To emphasize the importance of including First Nations in the dialogue, SWFC will present a short video on last year’s Tribal Canoe Journeys, which was funded primarily to address issues on harm reduction. It is important to include those with lived experience when addressing these issues, SWFC believes.

The conference will end with traditional ceremonies to also highlight that Indigenous culture and traditional ways of living are integral to recovery from illicit drug use.

“The conference was originally visioned to be for front line service providers,” Holden said, “but we have been getting an overwhelming response from the general public. We’ve done registration for service providers and now we’re opening the registration up for folks who want to come.”

Those who want to attend can contact SWFC, but accommodations and travel are not included.

SWFC was first incorporated as a society in May 2002 and currently provides services like craft groups, support groups, cultural workshops, recreational activities, life skills, advocacy, one-on-one support, group supports, and community engagement.

SWFC is also a part of B.C. Association of Friendship Centres.

– press release

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