Gitpo Spirit Lodge Wellness and Harm Reduction Pilot Project
Retired AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine, a veteran of 45 years in First Nation politics and a survivor of the residential (institution) school system and Indian Day school, is the visionary behind this project.
Chief Roger has, through his adult life advanced his bold and compassionate drive to turn his vision into reality through the principles of Peace and Friendship.
Chief Roger possesses a well-established track record of advancing wellness for First Nation communities across Canada.
In the late 1970s, as a councillor on the Eel Ground Band Council, Roger recognized the need for alcohol and drug education programming at Eel Ground. His ground-breaking work laid the foundation for his community’s Rising Sun facility which became a model that many First Nations replicated across the country.
Since that early foray into politics, Roger’s career included 16 years as Chief of Eel Ground, time spent as National Chief Phil Fontaine’s chief of staff, and for the past 16 years, served as Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Throughout his career Chief Roger, promoted wellness within his community and heralded it as a priority with the 634 other First Nations communities. His fundamental belief is that individual and community wellness is the foundation for enhancing the quality of life and capacity building.
He is working with key collaborators- Eco-Canadian Organics, University of New Brunswick and the Cortex Group to establish a wellness and harm reduction pilot project which will incorporate an innovative medical cannabis product.
As a natural product, the medicinal value of the cannabis flower is recognized globally for both its safety and effectiveness for a variety of diseases and medical ailments. Best practices for Aboriginal wellness involves a range of services from mainstream healthcare to traditional practices and medicines all under community leadership and administration.
The purpose of the wellness and harm reduction pilot project is to evaluate the utility of cannabinoids as an alternative for treatment of opioid addictions and dependency on the chemical pharmaceuticals Methadone or Suboxone.
Chief Roger built a formidable team of key strategic partners.
• Eco-Canadian Organics is a locally owned, healthcare license for production, cultivation and
selling of the highest-quality, lab tested organically grown cannabis products. E.C.O. is focused on supporting First Nation communities, by promoting wellness and harm reduction, and developing health and wellness services
• Cortex Group, as the marketing and production component of the pilot project, has patentedproducts designed for the highest quality of delivery of the cannabinoid products to the
participants in the pilot project.
• A team of scientists at the University of New Brunswick, are investigating the utility of cannabis as a treatment modality providing academic structure with a five-year research
Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation, a community of 850 members operates the Rising Sun facility, established by Chief Roger over 40 years ago. This facility serves four other Mi’gmaq First Nations communities within a 45-minute drive. A primary focus of its leadership and its Elders is the wellness and health of its community.
The model of the holistic wellness center, Gitpo Spirit Lodge, offers traditional learning including, but not limited to;
drumming, education and training for career in leadership positions, and the wellness and harm reduction initiative.
Through a virtual reality component at the Spirit Lodge, programs based in peace and friendship will be made available across the First Nations and Indigenous communities in Canada.
These programs will bring Chief Rogers vision to fruition as his dreams become reality.