Victoria crowd rallies for action on overdose crisis

Protestors marched from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building in Victoria on Tuesday for the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Jan Mahoney holds a photo of her son, Michael, who died of an overdose in December at just 21-years-old. She and husband Glen want to see more action on the overdose crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Piotr Burek and Kim Toombs of Aids Vancouver Island (AVI) joined the downtown march on Tuesday for the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
A number of people addressed the crowd outside the Ministry of Health building on Tuesday, expressing loss, pain and frustration as a result of the nation-wide overdose crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria city councillor Laurel Collins joined protestors calling for action on the overdose crisis Tuesday. Collins was one of many councillors who joined the group in the march from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building on 1515 Blanshard Street. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria city councillor Sarah Potts said the overdose crisis needs to become a federal election issue. She addressed the crowd of protestors gathered outside the Ministry of Health building on Tuesday as part of the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Glen and Jan Mahoney pose with an image of their son Michael, who died of an overdose in December after struggling with opioid addiction since age 13. The couple joined protestors Tuesday as they marched from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building downtown as part of the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Glen Mahoney wants to know how many people have to die from overdoses before something changes.

He and his wife Jan joined dozens of people raising a rally cry in downtown Victoria on Tuesday as they called for action on the overdose crisis.

Glen and Jan’s son, Michael, was prescribed opioids for pain at just 13-years-old. He spent the rest of his short life battling an addiction to the substance until he died of an overdose less than five months ago. He was 21 years old.

In their grief, the Victoria couple say something must change.

“Doing the same thing over and over that doesn’t work, it’s the definition of insanity,” said Jan. “I’ve been an advocate for safe supply for many years. It’s just ridiculous how we’ve criminalized people because… humans have been using substances for a millennium, so I don’t think prohibition is the answer.”

Glen said stigma is the only explanation for the ongoing crisis.

“These people are ill. And they go untreated,” he said.

The protesters, which included members of the Society of Living Illicit Drug Users (SOLID), Aids Vancouver Island (AVI), Moms Stop the Harm as well as other advocates and harm reduction workers, marched from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building at 1515 Blanshard Street, calling for safe supply, compassionate policy change and decriminalization of single-use drugs.

“Safe supply can be done,” said Victoria-based harm reduction nurse Marilou Gagnon, in an address to the crowd. “It is cost effective…it saves lives.”

The crowd responded with hoots of support, banging pots and blowing whistles.

“We know what to do, we have the solution,” she added, saying that governments have managed public health emergencies without knowing the cause or the cure.

“We can take matters into our own hands.”

According to the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs (CAPUD), safe supply refers to legal and regulated drugs that perform as a substitute for illicit drugs – helping to re-conceptualize safe use practices and ensure users don’t ingest contaminants like fentanyl.

A safer drug supply motion brought forward by the City of Victoria was approved at an AVICC meeting on Saturday, but Coun. Sarah Potts said the overdose crisis needs to become a federal election issue too.

“I want to call on governments to do more and do better,” she said to the crowd.

Coun. Laurel Collins, Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, Coun. Marianne Alto and Coun. Jeremy Loveday joined the group as well.

Tuesday’s march was part of a National Day of Action put on by CAPUD that comes with five federal demands: to declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency, to make safe supply the fifth pillar of the Canadian drugs and substances strategy, to make heroin an accessible drug, to decriminalize people who use drugs and to provide emergency funding for overdose prevention sites.

Across B.C., similar events were held in Powell River, Prince George, Duncan and Vancouver.

Just Posted

Health Canada suspends Island pot producer’s licence following unannounced visit

Evergreen Medicinal Supply is working on “corrective action”

Victoria student out $600 for lack of e-bike insurance blames confusing rules

B.C. regulation says e-bike motors must turn off if rider stops pedalling, or bike must be insured

Saanich police ask for public’s help locating missing high risk youth

The 12-year-old was last seen before school on Monday morning

Flat tire, kindness of strangers, surprisingly inflate hope

Sooke mom and her daughters knocked on door of Bob and Norma Saunders seeking help

Ogden Point officially rebranded as The Breakwater District

New signage and logos accompany plans for the area’s future

Sealand was much more than killer whales, says ex-employee

Former Sealasd trainer revisits Sealand of the Pacific in talk

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Most Read