OP/ED: Six Years, 9000+ Deaths – Is there an end in sight?
Over 9,000 people have died in BC as a result of drug toxicity since the government declared a public health emergency into substance-related harms in April 2016. Year over year death tolls continue to rise, with 2021 the highest on record in our province – 2,224 people died, a 26% increase over the year before.
“These are our loved ones – daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers – people who were cherished by their families and friends; lives cut short because our leaders will not step up to change the drug policies that are killing them,” says Tammy McLean, co-chair of the Trail Community Action Team.
There may be hope though, as Gord Johns, Member of Parliament representing Courtenay-Alberni, has introduced a private member’s bill that would decriminalize personal possession of illicit drugs, ensure low-barrier access to safe supply and expand access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery services. Members of all parties, except the Conservatives, have spoken in favour of the bill. To support it, please go to the Moms Stop the Harm website (www.MomsStoptheHarm.com), to sign the petition or write a letter to the Prime Minister.
“It is time our politicians join the leagues of experts in public health, health services, substance use and addiction, mental health, Indigenous health, education and policing to deal with drug poisoning as the non-partisan health issue that it is,” said Diana Daghofer, the Trail CAT’s other co-chair.
To commemorate those who died, the Trail CAT and its members, including REDUN – the Rural Empowered Drug Users Network – are planning a walk from the Cenotaph (Eldorado Street) to the Victoria Street bridge in Trail on Thursday, April 14, meeting there at 1:00 p.m. to hand out hearts, on which people can write their messages of condolence or hope, and black balloons, to symbolize the loved ones we have lost.
The Trail CAT and its members work to improve the living conditions of individuals in our area, which in turn, increases social stability, safety and inclusion for all members of our community. Our members, who include Moms Stop the Harm, ANKORS, Career Development Services and REDUN, conduct anti-stigma education and training, advocate for supportive housing and drug policy reform, operate a part-time overdose prevention site, and support businesses and the community through outreach workers and other services.