The BC and Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors is working to ensure the “equitable application of public health protections to vulnerable British Columbians” during the dual public health emergencies of drug overdose deaths (declared April 14, 2016) and COVID-19 (declared March 17, 2020).
An open letter has been sent to Honourable John Horgan, Premier; Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer; Honourable Adrian Dix, Minister of Health; Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, among others.
PAN, along with many community groups and individuals, signed this letter sent April 9, 2020.
The letter reads in part:
We call on you to: (1) recommend that the Minister of Health order the immediate suspension of municipal bylaws which sanction the displacement of people sheltering in public spaces;
(2) recommend that the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General direct that police forces immediately and for the duration of both public health emergencies cease expending resources on the enforcement of simple possession and related offences;
(3) reemphasize to prescribers and their colleges the importance of the new Guidelines for Risk Mitigation in the Context of Dual Public Health Emergencies to saving lives; and (4) ensure that the level of resources and attention currently being provided to long-term care homes is also afforded to reserves, prisons, homeless shelters and in high-density and high-risk hubs such as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
We want to be sure that you know what we know: that some of the most vulnerable British Columbians – a disproportionate percentage of whom are indigenous people – are being denied the benefit of the protection provided by public health orders and directives due to stigma and systemic barriers. People are unable to shelter in place when they are displaced from their only safe shelter, when the possessions they need to stay safe are taken from them and when they are unable to access medical-assisted treatment to help them avoid dopesickness or a poisoned drug supply. People can’t keep a safe distance from others when the restraints of poverty and colonialism keep them housed in crowded quarters on reserve or when the criminalization of their efforts to survive confines them to prisons and other institutions.
As our new Human Rights Commissioner has said human rights are never more important than in times of crisis. Public health and human rights must go hand in hand.
In addition to this letter, the BC and Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors has produced a resource helping people who use drugs learn how to access a safe supply (image in post). Download for use