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 Seattle Cossacks are a popular portion of the Hope Brigade Days parade. Some form of a community parade may still take place, say organizers. (Standard file photo)
Hope’s Brigade Days once again hit by pandemic concerns

Main event cancelled, but there is a glimmer of hope some events could happen

(Submitted)
Looking back on a rural nursing career in Hope

After a career spent working at Fraser Canyon Hospital, Jo-Dee Chisholm retires

B.C. Wildfire Services shows a fire on Chehalis Forest Service Road as of Sunday, May 16, 2021. (BC Fire Services)
UPDATE: Fire near Harrison Mills grows to 3 hectares

Resident near wildfire: ‘I pray that the Creator brings rain as soon as possible’

Justin Bond’s Bahrain 1 took a team around a year to construct. It gets its name because the Sheik of Bahrain is a major sponsor of the team. / Photo courtesy of Justin Bond.
Mission dragracer wins Atlanta race, ousts back-to-back world champion

Justin Bond goes quarter-mile in 5.738-seconds, beating champ Stevie ‘Fast’ Jackson on home turf

Jamie and Erin O’Neill, who are renting a 107-year-old house at 45837 Knight Rd., are wanting to save it from the wrecking ball and move it when it comes time for the owners of the house to build a new house on the property. They are pictured here outside the home on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack couple wants to save 107-year-old home from demolition, asking for community support

O’Neills have less than year to find new property, raise funds to move Knight Road house

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

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 16

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) (File Photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found dead in Surrey following a wellness check

IIO says officers ‘reportedly spoke to a man at the home before departing’

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Most Read