VICTORIA -- The chief of the Ahousaht First Nation says 20-year-old Clifton Johnston died Saturday after a stabbing in Port Alberni.

Chief Greg Louie told CTV News the young man was a member of the remote coastal First Nation near Tofino on Monday.

Johnston was an Ahousaht member but he called several other B.C. communities home, including Abbotsford.

Port Alberni RCMP say they found a man dead on a sidewalk on Saturday morning.

Police were called to the 3500-block of 4th Avenue to assist BC Emergency Health Services staff.

Investigators say the victim was found with stab wounds to his chest. Police believe this is an isolated crime and that the victim and attacker knew each other.

Chief Louie says the mental strain on Indigenous British Columbians during the pandemic has been devastating and is resulting in a high number of fatalities.

"They may not have had the virus COVID, but maybe there was the virus mentally," Louie told CTV News Vancouver Island.

The chief says his small band has suffered around 40 deaths unrelated to COVID-19 since the pandemic began a year ago.

He says the causes of death range from old age and suicide to overdoses and violence. He says this number is far higher than it normally would be during a year-long period.

"COVID is constricting and restricting so many of our people away from family," said Louie.

The chief say that overdoses and addictions are a significant issue within First Nations populations and the pandemic has only made the situation worse.

The Ahousaht First Nation has a population of 2,400 people and is located just off the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Tofino. 


A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the man as Clifford Johnston, rather than Clifton Johnston.