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

Condemned building of the Twin Gables Motel in Crofton is not safe and yet a teen has been climbing around on the roof while others were ripping the siding off the building. (Photo submitted)
Destructive behaviour by teens wreaking havoc on Crofton

Residents becoming fed up with the constant vandalism and fires

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
Bus link between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley expected by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in Regional District of Nanaimo budget

A drug bust on Government Street in Duncan on Tuesday, March 30, led to a “substantial seizure” according to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. (File photo)
OPINION: School police liaison programs help keep kids and community safe

School liaison programs help build trust between youth and police, Duck Paterson writes

After many years of hard work, the Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary completed its expansion and earned a VIREB commercial building award in the process. (Submitted photo)
Ladysmith Thrift Store wins VIREB commercial building award for best renovation

The renovated space was unveiled on November 14, 2020

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
UPDATE: Black bear tranquillized, being relocated by conservation officers

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read