Addictions exhibit promotes understanding

Katie Sawan, left, and Elizabeth Whitehead from the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program – Woodland Cree First Nation.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

A part- nership of Peace River and area organizations chose to collaborate to bring in Addictions Don’t Discriminate to help people understand a complex issue.

Storytelling was used in the two-day exhibit to help people understand addiction, its vices and helping to undercover what the addicted person goes through daily.

Nampa/Northern Sunrise County FCSS, Sagitawa, towns of Grimshaw and Peace River, Alberta Health Services, and the RCMP joined to provide the exhibit to the community.

The event was held on April 26-27 at the Sagitawa Friendship Society Gymnasium in Peace River. It included an opening ceremony, Indian tacos, a public viewing, and a closing ceremony.

“The exhibit is designed to inspire understanding, empathy, and action,” says Nampa/ NSC FCSS director Amber Houle. “Addiction is often seen as a moral failing or character flaw, but research shows that like many chronic illnesses, there is a combination of genetic, developmental, social, and environmental factors that influence a person’s lived experience and their likelihood of developing an addiction.”

Addictions Don’t Discriminate is an exhibit that travels throughout Alberta providing information to communities who request it. Houle explains because addictions impact everyone it is vital to learn more about addictions so everyone can treat people with empathy, compassion, and help them see the root of their addiction.

“It was slow with general public, but we had about 200 students come through,” says Houle.

“We had a lot of positive comments stemming from the opening ceremony and the displays,” she adds.

Although the exhibit will likely not be an annual occurrence in the community, Houle says their group continues to look for ways to bring awareness to addictions and breakdown the stigma associated with addictions.

The hope was that the shared stories, that were shown together could help viewers look beyond an individual’s substance abuse, and instead see inside the lives of the people suffering from the use. The end goal was to ensure people would have empathy and compassion for individuals who suffer from addictions.

“We are all susceptible to addictions so it’s important to educate one another and identify supports within our communities to build resiliency.”

For more information about the exhibit, you can visit the Addictions Don’t Discriminate website at

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