January 18, 2017
Vancouver, BC – This afternoon the BC Coroners Service released the final statistics for December which show that 142 people died that month from fatal drug overdoses, bringing the total to 922 for all of 2016.
“With 922 lives lost to drug overdoses in 2016, we must commit to a widespread shift in how we treat the issue of drug use and addiction in Canada,” said Katrina Pacey, lawyer and executive director of the Pivot Legal Society. “It is time for Canada to adopt an approach based on scientific evidence, which means moving away from the criminalization of drug use towards an approach that is driven by public health and human rights.”
We must protect the rights of people who use drugs
Pivot Legal Society believes current reforms proposed by Bill C-37, which streamline the application process for supervised injection sites, will not adequately stem the tide of fatalities in the current opioid crisis. Pivot is recommending that C-37 be amended to give the Ministers of Health in each province the power to authorize the operation of a supervised injection sites when a public health emergency is declared. This approach would expedite the opening of new sites, especially in comparison to the federal government’s authorization process which will still be time-consuming and resource intensive.
In October, Vancouver Coastal Health applied to the federal government to operate two new supervised injection sites in the Downtown Eastside. Both have yet to be granted the federal exemptions needed to operate. Since that time, at least 270 people have died in the province, due to illicit drug overdoses.
“In light of hundreds of fatal overdoses, the Canadian government has committed to re-framing drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal one,” said Caitlin Shane, with the Pivot Legal Society. “We intend to hold the federal government accountable for translating those aims into meaningful action, supporting people who use drugs rather than criminalizing them. Drug prohibition has been a failure.”
It’s time to end the delays that are costing lives.
Peter Kim, Communications & Digital Engagement Coordinator
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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.