In the cemetery at Northern Ontario’s Fort Hope aboriginal community, the tiniest graves belong to miscarried fetuses, a testament to the Ojibway culture’s reverence for unborn life. Lately, their number has been multiplying at an unusual rate.
The little graves are the byproduct of one of the most disturbing aspects of Canada’s epidemic of prescription painkiller addiction: growing ranks of pregnant women hooked on Oxycodone or similar narcotics.
The Fort Hope mothers lost their pregnancies when the illicit supply of the medicines dried up, or they decided to go cold turkey out of concern for their future child. In a cruel irony, abrupt withdrawal from prescription opioids often causes miscarriage.
“It is our belief that right from inception a fetus is a human being, so they do a proper burial,” said Liz Atlookan, healthcare manager for the isolated reserve. “There seems to be more graves, these little plots. There is an increase…. That does say something.”