42-year-old was with 5 others who overdosed at the same time last Sunday
When Lucien Wabanonik got the call that her sister was in the hospital after an overdose, he gathered all of his siblings to make the six-hour drive to Montreal from Lac Simon, an Anishinaabe community near Val-d'Or, Que.
By the time the family got to see her, it already seemed like her death was a matter of when, not if.
Sindy Wabanonik had suffered severe brain damage after consuming an unknown substance last Sunday. She was among a group of six people who overdosed at the same time near the corner of St-Dominique and Ontario streets. Four people were taken to hospital. Two men were released, and another patient remains hospitalized but is in stable condition.
"We did get there and saw what was the situation of our little sister. It was pretty hard to see," said her brother, who is the chief of the Anishinaabe council of Lac Simon. "She was our baby sister, the last one of our family."
The mother of three died on Tuesday. She was 42.
'It's got to be stopped,' says victim's brother after fatal overdose
Lucien Wabanonik, the chief of the Anishinaabe council of Lac Simon, says he and his siblings rushed to Montreal after hearing their sister was in hospital.
People who work at Projet Autochtone Québec (PAQ), an organization that supports Indigenous people experiencing homelessness, say they believe the overdoses were caused by fentanyl. The Montreal police investigation into Wabanonik's death has been transferred to the coroner's office.
The 42-year-old woman lived in Montreal but often travelled to Lac Simon to visit her family. Her family was aware that she had been fighting addiction and was under the impression that her recovery was headed in the right direction.
Her brother said her death has hit the family hard — especially her children, who are all believed to be 10 and under.
"We're going to hold onto the more positive side of her life," he said. "It wasn't always a dark time in her life."
He also said he'd like to see someone be held criminally responsible for her death.
'Very, very loved by the community'
People close to Wabanonik have set up her small memorial near the scene of the overdose, leaving photos, flowers and candles in her memory.
Recently, she was often seen at PAQ, where she received support but also formed a bond with other clients and staff members.
Myriam Shoot-Fugère, a case worker at the centre, said the mother of three was a "raw and fun lady" who made a strong impression during the brief time they knew each other.
"I was just sitting with her last week actually doing some paperwork and we were just having such a good time together," Shoot-Fugère said.
"She was definitely very, very loved by the community here and, from what I saw at the hospital, her family too."
Montreal public health is looking into last weekend's overdoses and a spokesperson said it's still too early to say what substance was consumed.
Following last Sunday's incident, Montreal police and community groups urged people to get their drugs tested.
There are four organization that offer drug-testing services. For more information, click here.
Between July 2022 and August 2023 public health officials in Montreal counted 1,255 overdoses — the highest annual total ever recorded on the island, according to a report released last month. Out of those overdoses, 175 were fatal.
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the province's Health Ministry said it takes the fight against opioids seriously and pointed out Quebec has committed $15 million a year to prevention. It's also set aside about $37 million over five years for community groups that deal directly with drug users.
Shoot-Fugère said people at PAQ are still shocked, and those who overdosed along with Wabanonik are also dealing with guilt.
"But everyone's been very supportive of one another. They've been making cards, they've been making T-shirts," Shoot-Fugère said. "You can see that things like this happen and the community really does come together."
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