First Nations Health Authority brings awareness to the importance of harm reduction

Outside of the YWCA. Photo by Global News.


An Indigenous Harm Reduction colouring book has been put together by FNHA in British Columbia to call Regina residents’ attention to the topic. 

According to the YWCA’s Facebook page, a few of the themes include Indigenous harm reduction, safer substance use tips, land-based healing, coping with hope, affirmations for those who use drugs and people who drink, as well as solidarity. 

Kendra Juliana, who works with the Beyond the Bell program at Regina’s YMCA believes that this opens the door for discussion on a relevant and important topic.

“I think anything that addresses the issue is needed and welcomed,” she said. “And I think making it accessible for kids at a younger age with the colouring book sounds like a great idea.”

Melissa Burdon, YWCA’s harm reduction outreach coordinator explained how their organization got involved.

“I saw the First Nations Health Authority had put out the harm reduction colouring book contest. And so we weren’t able to host the big event I wanted because of COVID-19, but we did open it up to the residents who live here,” she said. 

“We have emergency shelters for women fleeing domestic violence and also for long term residents. We just wanted to give (the residents) an opportunity to submit their artwork. A lot of the time they won’t have emails or they can’t fax or scan something on their own. So we figured we would host a small event to take away some of those barriers for them submitting.

“There were also lots of people who just wanted to come, hang out, colour and play with the art supplies we had. A lot of people didn’t do the actual contest, but just did paintings or drawings that kept with the theme. So even if they weren’t submitting things that we could submit to the colouring contest, those same themes of the Indigenous harm reduction showed up in the paintings people had done. Then they could just take those home with them as well.”The YWCA defines harm reduction as “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in and respect for the rights of people who use drugs. 

“In 2020, there were 329 Drug poisoning deaths in Saskatchewan … (and) 464 people died in Saskatchewan from confirmed or suspected drug poisonings in 2021.” 

Burdon also emphasized the significance of colouring for those using substances. 

“Colouring books are actually very popular in communities where people are using substances, specifically Methamphetamine. It’s a way for them to kind of calm themselves down if they get too high or if they’re having a bad trip. It’s quite common for people to use the colouring books as almost a harm reduction strategy.”


Submission request for harm reduction colouring book. Photo by First Nations Health Authority.


The Indigenized concept of harm reduction is also maintained by the YWCA as they make mention of the inter-relation between the world, spirituality and humanity. They imply by allowing there to be independence in the approach to harm reduction can help to deconstruct the colonial damage inflicted upon the Indigenous peoples. 

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