Thursday, May 23, 2024

BC Greens demand ‘compassionate and evidence-based’ solutions to toxic drug crisis


On April 16th, 2016, a public health emergency was declared by the BC government regarding the amount of British Columbians dying of toxic drugs.

Since that time, month-over-month and year-over-year the numbers of toxic drug-related deaths have only increased, despite several efforts made by the Province.

With tomorrow marking the eighth anniversary of this public health emergency, Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley has come out to decry the policies and efforts made by the BC NDP government.  

“Eight years ago, our province was forced to confront the grim reality of the unregulated, highly toxic, and lethal drug supply,” said Furstenau.  

“Yet, despite the ongoing severity of this emergency, the response from this government remains woefully inadequate. I am deeply concerned about the politicization of the crisis and the unwillingness of government to scale up the response.”

“If it’s an emergency, treat it as one,” she added. 

Since the public health emergency was declared, at least 14,208 British Columbians have died from using toxic drugs. 

This equates to 1,776 deaths per year, 34 deaths per week and around 5 deaths per day for the eight year time span. 

“We cannot ignore the underlying factors that contribute to this crisis. Deepening poverty and despair are driving more British Columbians into situations where they are at risk,” Furstenau continued.  

“We must remain focused on dismantling the conditions that lead to such vulnerabilities and on combating the deadly nature of the illicit-toxic drug supply that is taking too many lives.”

She says that Indigenous communities have been hit especially hard by the public health emergency and toxic drug deaths. 

According to the BC Greens, between 2015 and 2021 in Canada, life expectancy for First Nations has decreased by seven years. 

“Even more alarming, between 2019 and 2021, there was a further decline of nearly six years—a stark contrast to the one-year decrease experienced by other BC residents,” Furstenau explained. 

“The time for half-measures is over. We need serious, compassionate, and evidence-based solutions that address both the supply of toxic drugs and the social conditions that fuel this crisis,” she concluded. 

The current BC government has invested millions into supportive housing facilities for substance-users and rehabilitation initiatives across the province. 

The Conservative Party of BC would see substance users forced into mandatory rehabilitation while completely reverting any harm reduction-based approaches.

Similarly, the BC United Party would see substance users put into ‘compassionate involuntary treatment and end any harm reduction safe supply programs currently operating in the province. 

Do you think enough is being done about the toxic drug crisis in BC? Let us know in the comments. 

Curtis Blandy

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