British Columbia has two public health emergencies that our elected governments are treating so differently. One health emergency has claimed the lives of over 1,500 people, many of them seniors, in the last 12 months. The other health emergency has claimed over 7,000 people, most of them in the prime of their lives, in the last five years.
Our provincial health minister and public health officer have shared daily, weekly and monthly statistics related to COVID-19. Why has the opioid crisis never been given this daily and detailed reporting from our government and public health officer? Where are the many statistics related to the opioid crisis? This crisis has continued for five years and claimed thousands more lives than COVID but it is not treated equally.
Governments have stated that they are making evidence-based decisions and have implemented recommendations from our health and science professionals to stop the spread and deaths from COVID-19. These same elected politicians have spent a fraction on the opioid crisis when compared to the funds spent on the COVID crisis. They have dismissed decades of evidence that our drug policy has been an absolute failure and is directly responsible for ensuring that organized crime is the sole provider of toxic drugs. They have repeatedly also dismissed health and law professionals who have stated we must address the toxic supply in order to stop people from dying.
Our provincial and federal governments have clearly shown they will do everything needed to prevent people from dying to COVID. They have also clearly shown, by not addressing the source of toxic drugs, that they are willing to accept the loss of innocent lives due to the opioid crisis.
Our governments have two choices: either organized crime can control substances or the government can provide safe substances with a system like we have in place for safe alcohol and marijuana.
April 24 was the fourth anniversary of the death of our son Ryan, who died at the age of 26 from a fentanyl poisoning on his job site in Vancouver. It is even more heartbreaking to know five more families in B.C. will lose a loved one tomorrow and every day this month and year, as our government has chosen to protect the perceived loss of votes over saving innocent lives.
Governments’ lack of meaningful action on the opioid crisis devalues, disrespects and minimizes Ryan’s short life, and the thousands of others who have also lost their lives due to a toxic supply.
We are hurt, angry and ashamed at our governments’ lack of treating all lives equally. It’s beyond time for decriminalization of all substances and for those substances to be government-controlled.
John & Jennifer Hedican,