‘We can’t afford to wait’: Group in Victoria calls for decriminalization of substance use


WATCH: Family and friends of loved ones who died of drug use gathered at the B.C. Legislature Saturday, calling on the government to decriminalize substance use. They say more needs to be done to end the stigma, help addicts and ultimately save lives. Isabelle Raghem reports.
A group of over 50 people marched from downtown Victoria to the B.C. Legislature Saturday morning, in hopes of being heard.

“We can’t afford to wait, we can’t afford to wait,” they chanted.

Pictures of sons, daughters, family members and friends were on display to put faces and names to the devastating illicit drug overdose crisis.

“Our son Gaven Mayville, he passed away last year from a Fentanyl overdose,” said his father Jim Mayville.

“He was poisoned,” added his mother Camille Mayville.

March 2018 alone 161 people died of an overdose in B.C.. Samantha Boucher’s daughter Preslee Denise is one of them.

“Keep your finger on the pulse because I never thought [my daughter] would slip through the cracks but she did,” said Boucher as she held up her daughter’s picture.

The group Moms Stop the Harm lead the rally. Members are demanding changes to the criminal and health systems in Canada.

“My son was turned away at a hospital, I was with him and he was turned away because he was an addict,” said Jim Mayville.

“It needs to be a priority, don’t wait till you kids dead,” said Camille Mayville.

“Our goal is to change drug policy to be more compassionate and more responsive,” said Moms Stop the Harm co-founder Leslie McBain.

They’re looking to get as many signatures as possible on a petition before sending it the house of Commons in Ottawa.

It calls for three things from the feds: For the current opioid crisis to be declared a national public health emergency,  for the creation of a system that provides safe and uncontaminated substances and for a new drug policy that decriminalizes personal possession.

“Prohibition on pot did not stop pot use. It didn’t even dent pot use,” said McBain, “so the government takes the next step to legalize and regulate, that’s what we’re asking for also for the opioid drugs and other drugs.”

The online petition has more than 2,000 signatures. McBain says the policy changes are needed to save lives.

Isabelle RaghemIsabelle Raghem

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