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City of Victoria marks opioid emergency anniversary with call for more action

Mayor Lisa Helps asks province, feds to give people ‘a chance for recovery’
A reenactment by B.C. Emergency Health Services shows paramedics attending an overdose. The City of Victoria is asking the provincial and federal governments to take more action to help prevent toxic drug deaths. (Courtesy of BCEHS)

On the sixth anniversary of B.C. declaring the overdose crisis a public health emergency, the City of Victoria renewed its call for senior governments to do more to reduce drug poisoning deaths.

“We’ve urged both the federal and provincial governments to create more treatment beds, implement safe supply and decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use. These actions reduce stigma and they save lives,” Mayor Lisa Helps said in a statement issued Thursday (April 14).

On the eve of the anniversary, an advisory was issued to warn people about a recent increase in overdoses in Victoria, the West Shore and Sooke. Two days prior to the anniversary, the BC Coroners Service released data showing that six people a day died from drug poisoning in February.

More than 9,400 people in B.C. have died from the toxic substances in the six years since the declaration.

“Each of these deaths is one more person who will never have a chance for recovery. It’s one more family member lost, with mourning relatives left behind,” Helps said.

READ: Overdose advisory issued for Greater Victoria

READ: 174 British Columbians – 6 under the age of 19 – died of toxic drug poisonings in February

Pointing to how the province’s health-care system vaccinated 90 per cent of British Columbians in about a year, the city said the same level of action should go toward getting safe supply for those who need it. That would treat substance use like the medical issue it is, rather than a criminal one, the city added.

“The supply of illicit drugs in Canada has become so toxic – so poisoned and tainted with fentanyl – that we cannot hope to address the escalating death toll without providing access to a safe, medically-regulated drug supply,” Helps said. “This will save lives.”

She called on the federal government to support B.C.’s request to exempt possession of small amounts of drugs from the Criminal Code.

“We must get to a point as a society where no one loses their life to a toxic drug supply, and we must get there soon.”

READ: B.C advocates push back as Health Canada mulls lower-than-requested legal drug possession

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