A group demanding more effective policies to address illicit drug use says protests will be held in several locations Wednesday — including Vancouver and Victoria — to mark the fifth anniversary of the declaration of a public health emergency in BC.
The province declared the emergency on April 14, 2016, as deaths related to toxic drugs soared — and members of BC Moms Stop the Harm says there have been more than 7,000 deaths since then.
Group co-founder Leslie McBain says members want the province to immediately implement a safe and regulated supply of drugs for those with substance use disorders.
Moms Stop The Harm calls for an end to the failed war on drugs through “evidence-based prevention, treatment and policy change,” according to the group’s website.
“We support a harm reduction approach that is both compassionate and non-discriminatory for people who use substances,” reads a statement from the group.
“Our vision is that people who use drugs are not criminalized and that their rights are respected. It sees health care as the way to equitably provide for a safe supply of substances and diverse pathways of support for all those affected. It includes support and empowerment of families to use their voices without shame, to share their stories and to advocate for positive change.”
As the pandemic has increased the toxicity of the drug supply, accelerating B.C.’s death rate to more than five people per day, McBain says Moms Stop the Harm also wants immediate distribution of safe drug alternatives to save lives while better ways are found to protect users.
In January, the BC Coroners Service reported there were 165 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, which marks the largest number of lives lost in B.C. during the first month of a calendar year.
An average of 5.3 lives were lost each day in January due to the toxic drug supply – a death rate of 38.1 per 100,000 residents.
In an event organized on Facebook, the group says a protest will be held in Victoria on April 14 at the parliament building, starting at 12 p.m.
“The government’s inaction has been unacceptable in the face of a crisis that is claiming the lives of our young and altering the life expectancy here in BC,” reads the event description.
“Mask up and rage on,” it adds.