Advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm continues to call for drug policy change at Vancouver vigil

Members of the advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm took to the streets Friday night, holding a vigil outside the Vancouver Art Gallery and carrying makeshift coffins in memory of loved ones they lost to fatal overdoses drug.

The rally was part of a call for more action on the toxic drug crisis in British Columbia, leading up to International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31.

« We’re all here for the same reason, » said Moms Stop the Harm organizer Traci Letts. « To remember…to say their names. These types of deaths just don’t have any dignity in them. »

« We just want to change the narrative, » said Letts, whose son struggles with drug addiction. « We need to talk about substance use, drug use. We need to make it part of our daily conversation to reduce the stigma. »

According to the BC Coroners Service, more than 140 people died of illicit drug toxicity in the province in June. Preliminary data shows that the number of overdose deaths in the first six months of 2022 is the highest on record for this period of a calendar year.

Moms Stop the Harm wants BC and Ottawa to review provincial and federal drug policies and apply harm reduction principles on a much broader scale. Some of these changes include improving access to needle exchanges, safe supply, naloxone kits, drug testing and supervised consumption sites.

According to the group’s website, harm reduction aims to keep people alive and as healthy as possible, connects people to health and social services or treatments, promotes self-respect, and meets people. addicts where they are – without stigma or shame.

Lisa Weih lost her 29-year-old daughter, Renée, to a toxic drug overdose in 2020. She says deaths like her daughter’s are « largely overlooked ». (Shawn Foss/CBC)

Lisa Weih was at Friday’s protest. Two years ago, her 29-year-old daughter Renée died after using toxic drugs.

« It’s kind of a terrible loss, to lose a child – and for your brother to lose her, » Weih said. « It leaves a hole… in your heart and in your life. »

Renee had struggled with drug addiction for several years and Weih says the family didn’t know how to help her at the time. Today, she’s grateful for the support of fellow Moms Stop the Harm members, but she’s also convinced that things need to change.

Two people holding coffins with the toxic drug death toll listed walk beside a woman with a sign saying
More than 10,000 people have died since British Columbia declared an emergency over toxic drug supplies in 2016. (Janella Hamilton/CBC)

In an article she wrote about her daughter’s death, Weih wonders why laws against hurting and killing others aren’t applied equally when people are hurt and killed by poisonous drugs.

“This kind of death is especially painful because there is no kind of justice for the family,” she said. “You feel pretty helpless.

« No one is investigating, no one is trying to solve or solve or figure out what happened. These types of deaths are largely ignored. »

With more than 10,000 deaths in British Columbia since a public health emergency was declared in 2016, organizers and participants in Friday’s rally say they will continue to take to the streets and raise their voices until that there is a change in the way the government deals with the underlying issues that overlap drug use, addiction and toxicity.


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