Comox Valley Regional District directors have agreed to forward to the provincial government two resolutions about the illicit drug crisis that is killing people, locally and in other B.C. communities.
Tuesday at committee of the whole, board members approved writing a letter to support a safer drug supply, and inhalation sites for risk mitigation.
“The Coroners Service has recognized that these deaths are related to a toxic drug supply, and not overdose,” Courtenay director Wendy Morin said.
John and Jennifer Hedican of Courtenay, who lost their son Ryan to fentanyl poisoning in 2017, are imploring local governments to hold senior governments accountable for the loss of lives due to illicit drugs, in B.C. and across Canada. They also advocate the decriminalization of drug possession.
Morin notes there were more than 10,000 deaths in Canada in the last three years. On several occasions, she said the North Island has been second highest in B.C. in the rate of toxic drug-related deaths.
“We have a situation where it’s primarily men in their productive years who are dying from this in silence. It’s not just marginalized folks we see out and about in town. One-third of the men who’ve died have been in construction and trades, 55 per cent in the transporter trades sector.”
Morin notes a study conducted by an economics student determined that, for the first time ever, the life expectancy of men has declined by nearly a quarter of a year.
“This has an economic impact, it has health impacts,” Morin said. “I believe that we need to take a leadership role to reduce stigma, and make it easier for people who are experiencing a health issue to be able to access a safe supply, instead of street drugs that are killing them. If we can lend our voice to putting some pressure on the provincial government, there are avenues that the governments can take to do this. There are exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to do this. This is not a foreign concept to provide a safe supply to people.”
Cumberland director/committee chair Jesse Ketler said she lost a family member to fentanyl last summer. She thanked Morin for forwarding the resolutions.
“I don’t know what the province is going to do about this, but I do agree that the least we can do is raise the issue and add our voices to the need for a change, so that this is treated as a health problem and not a criminal one,” Courtenay director Doug Hillian said.
Area C director Edwin Grieve said the subject has been discussed at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). He said a number of conservative provinces cannot see their way to supplying drugs.
“But it was made very plain that it’s not the drugs themselves, it’s the poisons that are embedded in the drugs,” Grieve said. “There used to be something called ‘recreational drug use.’ It’s not there any more.”
Delegates at FCM suggested that if there’s going to be a safe drug supply, it should be under a doctor’s supervision.