Members of Moms Stop the Harm shared stories of heartbreak Thursday morning on the steps of the legislature and promised increasing protests calling for opioid policy reform.
That promise came a day after a B.C. Coroner’s report revealed the province saw an all-time high average of six opioid-related deaths per day in 2021.
“We are strong advocates,” said Leslie Mcbain, organization co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, which includes mothers and some fathers of people who died from an opioid overdose.
Last year saw 2,224 overdose deaths in B.C.; the highest number ever recorded in one year and a 26 per cent increase over the 1,767 deaths seen in 2020. Of those, 354 were under 29. Victoria saw 126 die.
“We’ve seen a few recovery beds, a few pathways towards treatment, some pilot project for safe supply, but it’s obviously not working,” Mcbain said.
One of Canada’s largest opioid policy reform groups with 3,000 members nationwide, Moms has demanded a guarantee of safe supply of opioids from the province. “If anyone doesn’t agree with us, they’re not talking to us,” Mcbain added.
Victoria resident Georgina Tweed lost her daughter, 38-year-old Nicole Tourangeau, to overdose five months ago. Tweed said anyone who hasn’t lost a child may not be able to comprehend the grief she is feeling and the fear she has for all of those in B.C. who use drugs.
“My daughter is one of thousands and there’s going to be many, many more,” she said. “I have young nieces and grandchildren who are coming to that age where they’re experimenting, and I’m worried sick.”
She conceded how some people consider a government-regulated opioid supply as enabling addiction, but she said, “the whole point is to offer something that will keep them alive.” Otherwise, “it’s Russian roulette.”
Lavatta Frank told those gathered that a loved one was among the more than 2,200 to die from an overdose last year. Referring to her Indigenous community, “we don’t have enough of our people standing with us today,” she said, her voice distraught with emotion.
Despite only comprising 3.3 per cent of B.C.’s population, Indigenous people accounted for 14 per cent of overdose deaths, succumbing at a rate over five times greater than non-Indigenous people, according to the First Nations Health Authority. “Many, many of our young ones are leaving way too soon,” Frank said.
Moms Stop the Harm are working to determine their next moves, which Mcbain said could include a trip to Ottawa to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly. “We’re getting more radical because everything is getting worse,” she said.
“Hope is based on the expectation of positive outcomes with respect to circumstances of one’s life,” said Jennifer Howard, Moms Stop the Harm program manager. “To Premier Horgan and Minister of Health Adrian Dix, we state that our hope is fading. Our voice is becoming one of outrage and anger for the injustice of these deaths.”
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