Jennifer Hedican (left) and her daughter Megan Hedican have started a petition calling for the decriminalization of drugs. Hedican’s son, Ryan, passed away at age 26 from an opioid overdose in April 2017. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Despite B.C.’s policy makers being on their summer break, a call for the decriminalization of illicit drugs could be heard loud and clear outside the B.C. Legislature Saturday.

Lining up on the front lawn of the legislature in Victoria, dozens stood holding photos of loved ones who have fatally overdosed – photos of the children, parents and siblings they wish they could have one more day with.

Meanwhile, hundreds of painted patches of fabric, or “flags of hope” flew in the wind on string, each representing a live claimed.

“We are here with members of our group – about 500 strong, from coast to coast – who have come here to Victoria for our rally to ask for decriminalization of the personal possession of illicit substances,” said Petra Schulz, a co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm and organizer of the demonstration.

READ MORE: Naloxone prevented 26% of possible overdose deaths in B.C., study says

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

Moms Stop the Harm is a nation-wide network of Canadian families whose loved ones have died of illicit drug overdoses or who hope for recovery for many across the country struggling with drug use.

Co-founded by Schultz, B.C. mom Leslie McBain and Lorna Thomas, the group advocates for an approach to solve the rising number of overdose deaths that is based on reducing harm, where people who use drugs are treated with respect, compassion and support.

“We hope that showing and sharing the stories of our loved ones will help others in the future and bring about the policy change that we need so that we will not have the numbers of victims that we have at the moment,” Schulz said.

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Nearly 4,000 people died of an illicit overdose in Canada last year, with more than 72 per cent of those deaths due to the illegal street version of powerful opioid fentanyl. In B.C., 1,400 people died due to drug overdoses in the same time frame.

From January to April this year, 511 people have died of an overdose in the province, based on the latest data available from BC Coroners Service.

Since the province declared its own health emergency in 2016 – following a devastating increase in the number of overdose deaths caused by the illicit opioid fentanyl – B.C.’s top health officials have recommended prescription heroin and suboxone treatments in order to provide a spectrum of support for recovering drug users.

Jennifer Hedican’s 26-year old son, Ryan, had tried to get clean from drug use several times, but passed away of an opioid overdose in April 2017. Now Hedican has speared a petition asking that the government declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, that drugs be decriminalized, and that a safe source of drugs be provided.

“We need it to be a national public health emergency, like it was for H1N1, SARS and Ebola, which they haven’t done for the opioid epidemic and at this point more people have died from drugs than the other three combined,” Hedican said. “We’re hoping to have as many signatures as the people who have died over the last two and a half years, which would be more than 10,000.”

READ MORE: As feds ease access to prescription heroin, B.C. could see relief, doctor says

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced in March that legal changes will soon allow Canadians suffering from opioid use to have access to prescription heroin in addiction clinics, while methadone treatment will be available through health-care practitioners without any need for federal exemption.

However, the federal minister has told Black Press Media legalizing or decriminalizing opioids is off the table.

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

 

An attendee to the Moms Stop The Harm rally, calling for the decriminalization of drugs. Particpants held up signs and photos of loved ones who have passed away, and each flag represents a victim of an opioid overdose. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

A passerby takes a picture of the flags on display during the Moms Stop The Harm rally, which is calling for the decriminalization of drugs. Each flag on display represents someone who has died of an opioid overdose. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

Just Posted

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
A 1900s writing box found in Greater Victoria contained ink, photos and a letter addressed to Clara McCaubry dated October 14, 1898. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)
Mysterious 1900s writing box finds a home among Saanich Archives

Wooden chest owned by early Saanich resident Clara Isabelle McCaubry

(Black Press Media file photo)
Spooky online class cooks up funds for Greater Victoria Imagination Library

United Way Greater Victoria offers how-to for witch cookies, tasty coffin as fundraiser

Murray Rankin has announced he will seek the nomination for the Oak Bay Gordon Head riding in the 2021 provincial election (which could happen in the fall of 2020). The former Minister of Parliament for the Victoria riding from 2012 to 2019.
(MurrayRankin.com)
New Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Murray Rankin says he will use his federal connections

Rankin said being part of NDP majority government gives him a strong voice

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read