Increasing numbers of deaths due to toxicity in an illicit drug supply has spurred Courtenay council and other B.C. municipalities to request the Government of Canada to declare the issue a national public health emergency. Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Increasing numbers of deaths due to toxicity in an illicit drug supply has spurred Courtenay council and other B.C. municipalities to request the Government of Canada to declare the issue a national public health emergency. Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Toxic drug-related deaths a national health emergency: Courtenay council

Following the lead of Prince George, Courtenay council agreed to advocate for solutions at a national level to help curb the toxic drug supply that is poisoning communities across Canada.

At the April 6 meeting, council approved a resolution from Melanie McCollum to request the federal government to declare the issue a national public health emergency.

“This continues to be an issue that’s only gotten worse,” McCollum said. “The province has taken some steps, although I think a lot more can be done.”

“There’s no doubt by all accounts, including by those in law enforcement, that the current drug policies have failed us, and have contributed to an unprecedented health emergency in this country,” Coun. Wendy Morin added. “This crisis has impacted all of us.”

By seeking input from people affected by the crisis, and by meeting with provinces and territories, the resolution proposes to develop a plan that includes consideration of legal reforms used in other countries to reduce drug-related fatalities and stigma. Reforms include legal regulation of illicit drugs, and decriminalization for personal use.

From McCollum’s understanding, only a handful of drug users have access to a safe supply.

Locally, Morin said 13 people died last year from a toxic drug supply. Including Campbell River and Port Alberni, she said there were 39 “preventable deaths” due to an illicit, toxic drug supply.

“These are not overdoses,” Morin said. “People have used substances throughout history, and we’ve never seen deaths from substances like now, and it is completely because of the toxicity in the illicit supply, and it’s not because people took too much…People who use substances are being blamed for their deaths because they’ve made a choice to use too much, and that’s not accurate.”

She noted that 28 B.C. municipalities have passed a similar resolution requesting Canada to develop a national plan to remove the criminality from this health issue, and to provide a safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to a deadly illicit supply.

“Like hundreds of people in our community, I too have loved ones who’ve struggled with addiction and mental health challenges,” Morin said. “I’ve watched healthy, talented, kind, contributing members of my family suffer immensely, and they face daily stigma, shame and hopelessness. So I question what the public response would be if we saw 39 deaths in our region from car crashes, workplace accidents or even suicide. There would be an outcry like no other, and people would be scrambling to find solutions.”

She said the time is now to send message to make the federal government listen and act.

“I know that I’m not alone in saying that I don’t want to attend one more funeral or memorial,” said Morin, who has attended about 16 funerals for young people in recent years. “I know there are many people like me in this community that are basically suffering in silence and they’re afraid to speak out because of the stigma. I believe this resolution could significantly impact our community for the better if we have other municipalities joining us.”

Mayor Bob Wells thanked Morin for her heartfelt comments and for sharing her experiences. Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton appreciates her continued advocacy in the community.

“What we need to do to save lives within the opioid crisis is quite simple, and it’s all rooted in a safe supply,” Cole-Hamilton said.

Coun. Manno Theos feels there are two other critical components to the issue: affordable treatment for people struggling, and stiffer penalties for drug traffickers.

Council approved a follow-up motion from Theos to meet with B.C. government ministers to discuss the challenges about the local toxic drug supply.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Volunteers sort through bottles and cans during Saturday's fundraiser for hospice. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley hospice holds drive-through bottle drive

Bike team is fundraising for the annual Cycle of Life tour on Vancouver Island

The Village of Cumberland is applying for a UBCM grant to help streamline development application processes. Black Press file photo
Cumberland looks to streamline development

“This looks like the best thing we’ve ever applied for.”

Security camera image of 7-Eleven robbery suspect. Photo supplied.
Late-night Courtenay robbery results in 500-plus days in jail

Heatley’s sentence also includes probation, DNA order, firearms ban

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read