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Non-profit campaign roots harm reduction with culture

Thunderbird Partnership Foundation will carried out test campaigns in select communities across Canada including Nipissing First Nation
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A new harm reduction campaign has been launched to promote the importance of First Nations teachings in fighting opioid addictions in Indigenous communities across the province.

This will include providing assistance to at least one First Nation located in Northeastern Ontario.

The campaign has been launched by the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation of Bothwell, Ontario, a non-profit organization committed to addressing substance abuse in First Nations. 

"Thunderbird defines harm reduction as a way to keep individuals, families, and communities safe from the harms of substance use. Our culturally safe approach uses Indigenous ways of knowing and doing to take care of each other. And this is the message our campaign brings," said Carol Hopkins, chief executive officer at Thunderbird.

Hopkins said there are matters of unresolved and complex trauma that still contribute to substance abuse harms in Indigenous communities.

"And our work with First Nation treatment programs across Canada continues to show the vital role of Indigenous culture in treatment plans aimed at reducing the impact of substance use and promoting wellness," said Hopkins.

"This is why it's so important to root First Nation harm reduction practices in culture."

Thunderbird said the overall goal of the campaign is to increase awareness of harm reduction practices in First Nations communities. The campaign includes a digital and social media advertising campaign, print materials and community-based toolkits. Upon completion of this initial six-week test campaign, Thunderbird will assess feedback and response to plan for a fuller national campaign. The organization said test campaigns will be carried out in select First Nations communities across Canada. This will include a test campaign at the  Nipissing First Nation.

Thunderbird said the opioid crisis, which affected First Nations disproportionately before the COVID pandemic, was only made worse during the isolation of the pandemic. The use of opioid and other substances increased among Indigenous communities. 

One of the practical solutions launched by Thunderbird is an interactive wellness app to help people understand what solutions are available and where they can get help.

"The Thunderbird Wellness App promotes a strengths-based, trauma informed approach to supporting Indigenous wellness. The App provides tangible ways to support First Nations, from opioid and methamphetamine use, to treatment, prevention, addressing stigma associated with substance use and how to support harm reduction strategies, all presented in a user friendly, culturally grounded way," said the organization.

The Thunderbird Wellness App is free and is available on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Len Gillis covers health care and mining for


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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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