Yukon has surpassed British Columbia and Alberta to now have the highest opioid death rate in Canada. 

The territory’s chief coroner Heather Jones revealed that Yukon has a rate of 48.4 opioid deaths per 100,000 people. British Columbia previously led the country on opioid deaths with the current rate of 40.4 deaths per 100,000 people. 

For comparison, Canada has an overall rate of 19.3 deaths from opioids per 100,000 people. 

Since the beginning of 2021, Yukon has reported 21 deaths from opioid overdose. According to Jones, these overdoses made up 20% of deaths investigated by the coroner’s office. 

“For this office, and most certainly all of us, this is shocking,” said Jones. “This must be seen as a medical crisis. These deaths for the most part are people who are dying alone in their homes.”

“It is both heartbreaking and staggering,” she added. 

All of the deaths involved the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl and its derivatives, and some cocaine was detected in many cases. 

Blood Ties Four Directions Centre is a community health agency in Whitehorse. Its executive director Brone Renwick-Shields reflected on the numbers, saying, “(e)ach one of these deaths … represents a loved one, and a family member, and a person whose life had meaning, and whose death has impacted our community greatly.” 

“So we are seeing an increasingly strong supply of drugs with, you know, large degrees of fentanyl. And now benzodiazepines in our drug supply which may not be what is anticipated from the person using.”

The opioid crisis in the territory really took off in 2016. Since then 54 people have died from opioids, 85% of which involved fentanyl. 

“We are on a frightening trajectory,” said Jones, adding that numbers are “tragically increasing over these past three months.”

“And, somehow together, collectively we can find a solution to this.”

+ posts

Journalist and Senior Research Fellow

We’re asking readers, like you, to make a contribution in support of True North’s fact-based, independent journalism.

Unlike the mainstream media, True North isn’t getting a government bailout. Instead, we depend on the generosity of Canadians like you.

How can a media outlet be trusted to remain neutral and fair if they’re beneficiaries of a government handout? We don’t think they can.

This is why independent media in Canada is more important than ever. If you’re able, please make a tax-deductible donation to True North today. Thank you so much.