Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

As Wednesday marked B.C.’s fifth anniversary of declaring the overdose crisis a public health emergency, about 50 demonstrators stood outside the legislature to say that the provinces’s action has fallen short.

Moms Stop the Harm – a group of people who have lost loved ones to overdose and advocate for life-saving drug policy and support – were calling on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C..

Jennifer Howard, the group’s program manager, said preventable overdose deaths must end.

“We are mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, front line workers and all those who deeply care that the epidemic of deaths continues in this province with no end in sight,” said Howard, who lost her son Robby to an overdose. “We are here to say that enough is enough and to demand our government implement immediate measures to keep people safe.”

READ: B.C. to request federal exemption for simple drug possession

Earlier on Wednesday, the province announced they’ll be requesting a federal exemption to decriminalize personal possession of drugs and $45 million in funding over three years to expand overdose prevention.

“Through provincewide decriminalization, we can reduce the fear and shame that keep people silent about their drug use, and support people to reach out for help, life-saving supports and treatment,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions.

But speakers at the event scolded the government for, despite the five-year-old declaration, not treating the crisis like and emergency.

“If we truly treated this like an emergency, we would’ve seen courage from those in power, we would’ve had accessible and effective safe supply,” said Corey Ranger, a registered nurse and Victoria Safer Initiative member. He recalled when they responded to 28 overdoses in one week, including seven in one day, last April.

“We weren’t able to keep everyone alive,” he said. “It was around this time last year that I stood silently beside a grieving mom whose son died alone in a tent.”

Ranger said he sees first-hand how safe supply isn’t accessible enough for those who need it.

“I’m tired from grief, I’m exhausted from being ignored, I don’t want to be here and I don’t want to be here next year,” he said.

Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto said the demonstrators’ demands will help “drug use become what it is – a health issue.”

“How many times are we going to come together with the same questions and, more importantly, the same answers,” Alto said. “(The province) needs to hear these stories for what they are, they’re people who are dying, who don’t have to.”

Bernie Pauly, a University of Victoria nursing professor, said the more than 7,000 British Columbians that have died due to overdose since 2016 are not just numbers, but loved ones.

“Why aren’t we willing to provide an effective safer supply of substances,” she said. “We will end the drug war.”

READ: B.C. and Victoria’s overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Leslie McBain, Moms Stop the Harm’s co-founder who lost her son to overdose, said their demands are being heard, but their calls will only get louder until the crisis is quashed.

“The government can no longer ignore the numbers of deaths, the number of our children, our loved ones who are dead because they could not find safety in the drugs they needed,” said McBain.

Niki Lucas’ son Dustin died in 2016 of a fentanyl overdose. She wants other parents to know that overdose can happen to anyone.

“Never in a million years did I think we’d still be here five years later,” she said.

From 2016 to the end of this February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:jake.romphf@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Victoria

Just Posted

The wildfire season in the Okanagan Valley region has been approached with greater apprehension and concern from area residents since the historic Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003. That fire burned 25,600 hectares, forced evacuations in Kelowna and Naramata impacting more than 33,000 people, destroyed 238 homes, and claimed 12 wooden trestles and damaged two other steel trestles in Myra Canyon. (File photo)
Ominous wildfire outlook if June rains don’t return to Okanagan

Dry spring is fueling potential for busy wildfire season in July and August

Joe Rich residents want logging operations in the area to stop for now until they get more clarity on slope stability and risks to the Mission Creek watershed. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Joe Rich logging poses watershed risk: residents

Area residents want the logging to stop in the area for the time being

Kelowna Law Courts. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Former Vernon teacher found guilty of historic sex crimes against minors

Anoop Singh Klair was found guilty of all eight charges against him in a Kelowna courtroom on Friday

An algal bloom on Wood Lake has residents concerned for the body of water's health. (Wendy Innes-Shaw)
‘Wood Lake looks seriously unwell’: Lake Country residents

Algal bloom appears to be getting worse, and stinky

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

KCR Migrant Support Worker, Javier, had an exciting day escorting his son Ian with him during ‘Take your Child to Work Day’!
KCR: Volunteering is being part of a whole

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

The real estate market is hot in Vernon, and across the Okanagan. (John Dent photo)
North Okanagan home prices, demand continue to build

Single family home volumes up 200 per cent, worth average $647,000

A wildfire southeast of Vernon has been added to the BC Wildfire dashboard Friday, May 14, 2021. (BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire sparks southeast of Vernon

The fire appears to be in a remote area east of Aberdeen Lake

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Most Read