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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.'s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
Province ‘ramping up’ COVID-19 vaccination effort in hard-hit Surrey

‘Door-to-door’ registration program in the works, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

White Rock’s Joan Bywater shows the setup she uses when participating in online paint parties hosted by the Seniors Come Share Society. (Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: Virtual gallery showcases inspirations of Semiahmoo Peninsula seniors

‘What is art if not something that motivates more art?’

Surrey Eagles head coach Cam Keith speaks to his players during the break in the action at a game last week against the Coquitlam Express. (Damon James photo)
Surrey Eagles shut out Powell River Kings as BCHL season nears end

Goaltender Tommy Scarfone stops 19 shots to earn shutout

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Man charged after multiple mail thefts in Surrey: RCMP

Police say man was reported to be carrying a crowbar and looking into vehicles

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

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

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

Most Read