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The ongoing impacts of colonization continue to affect the health and wellness of Indigenous Peoples, as is evident in the disproportionate rates of toxic drug poisonings and deaths experienced by Indigenous people as compared to non-Indigenous people. Acknowledging and reducing the harms of colonialism, while emphasizing and building upon the strengths and ongoing resistance of Indigenous Peoples, is key to addressing the harms related to substance use.

In this episode of the Addiction Practice Pod, award-winning journalist David P. Ball speaks with the Medical Officer of Mental Health and Wellness at First Nations Health Authority, Dr. Nolan Hop Wo, on how colonialism and substance use are related. We also hear from Lacey Jones, Program Director of QomQem Coastal Connections, on strengths-based approaches to reducing the harms associated with colonialism.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand how colonialism has influenced, and continues to influence, substance use within First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
  2. Describe approaches to harm reduction in Indigenous contexts that emphasize strength and resilience.
  3. Discuss practical ways to decolonize your practice and incorporate Indigenous perspectives and traditional methods into health care.


In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • 1:51 – Dr. Nolan Hop Wo, Co-host – Medical Officer for Mental Health and Addictions, First Nations Health Authority
  • 7:25 – Lacey Jones, Guest – Program Director, QomQem Coastal Connections

Clinical Pearls

Here’s what listeners can take away from this episode:

  1. Prioritize support for Indigenous-led projects. Acknowledge the influential positions practitioners hold within the medical system and recognize the opportunity to use this privilege to amplify the voices of Indigenous colleagues and their programming.
  2. Understand that the harms of colonization are complex, but learning about colonization is important for better understanding Indigenous clients. Advocate for learning about colonization, both in a broad Canadian context and more locally. Start by asking yourself: “Where was the closest residential school? Where was the closest Indian hospital?” and spend time learning about their histories.
  3. Recognize that being Indigenous is a strength. Challenge Westernized and medicalized models that may focus on deficits. Encourage an open mindset that acknowledges Indigenous cultures, teachings, and knowledge as integral to the healing process. Ask yourself: “How can I recognize and incorporate Indigenous strengths into the care I provide?”.


Policy brief

Indigenous programs and resources


Indigenous-led podcasts on related topics


Credits: Art and music

Episode cover art by Brianna Bear.

Brianna Bear is based in the traditional territory of the Lekwugen, place to smoke herring, lands of the Songhees and Esquimalt nations in Victoria, BC. Brianna started first as an artist, and now has more than fifteen years of experience. She began learning under her grandfather, Skip Dick’s, younger brother, Butch Dick. Afterwards, she branched out into discovering her roots and design through her cultural connections to Songhees & Namgis formline design.

Today working as one of a few Indigenous female artists within her traditional territory of the Songhees people, she has worked on murals, logos, small business designs, small event designs and more. Brianna believes in telling stories through her design.

Music by Justin Delorme/Chippewa Travellers (“Determination”) and Handsome Tiger/Chippewa Travellers (“SummerBlues”). Available on Nagamo Publishing. Licensed by Nagamo Publishing Inc.