Message from the Executive Director
Looking back at the past year, there have been a number of important advocacy issues that PAN continues to focus our efforts on, working in partnership with PAN member organizations and allies.
While some progress has been made, the overdose crisis continues with an unacceptable level of overdose and overdose deaths. Increasingly, PAN members are also having to respond with interventions at ever-higher levels of complexity. Together we continue to advocate for scaling up evidence-based practices such as OPS and opioid substitution therapy (OST); and to adequately resource harm reduction services and peer groups providing low-barrier services that link people to care. In particular, PAN members and allies need to be adequately resourced to provide solutions that “work” for the communities and clients/members in which they are situated – including rural contexts, small urban centres/towns, on reserve, etc.
We continue to advocate for scaling up evidence-based practices such as OPS and opioid substitution therapy (OST); and to adequately resource harm reduction services and peer groups providing low-barrier services that link people to care.
Decriminalization and safe supply are also the way forward. Sadly, a lack of political will and complacency – along with outdated policies and practices based on punishment and prohibition – only ensure an unregulated, toxic drug supply that stigmatizes people who use drugs and effectively kills them. We applauded the Provincial Health Officer’s Report Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of people who use drugs in BC. We also signed on to a joint letter to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth calling for a harm reduction-based approach to policing. We continue to recognize the paramount importance of listening to the voices of people who use drugs and adopting a human-rights based approach. We continue to acknowledge the dedication of front-line workers, volunteers and peers, who have reversed countless overdoses – and without whom the loss of life would be so much greater; along with the leadership and powerful advocacy of other organizations such as the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (CHLN), the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, and the Canadian Association of People who use Drugs, to name but a few.
Stigma continues to be a priority for PAN and our members – as we continue to see the detrimental impact of stigma on individuals and communities. It continues to be a significant driver of the overdose crisis. And it has significant repercussions for people living with HIV, hepatitis C, drug users and other people with lived experiences (PWLEs) affecting their health outcomes and ability to access services. Over the coming year we will be working in collaboration with PAN members and peers, health authorities and other policy makers, to develop interventions that can combat stigma and discrimination, and to improve access to services.
This past year saw PAN involved on a number of fronts, with advocacy on the national level. We were part of a successful, multi-agency advocacy push regarding Canada’s role in resourcing for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. We endorsed an important statement from the CHLN calling on the federal government to fix flaws in the Prison Needle Exchange Program. PAN was the provincial coordinator for the second Annual HIV National Testing Day in June that took place at 100+ sites across the country.
We see the detrimental impact of stigma on people living with HIV, hepatitis C, drug users and other people with lived experiences (PWLEs).
The upcoming federal election saw PAN working closely with the Ontario AIDS Network, COCQ-SIDA in Quebec, ACCH in Alberta and in partnership with CAS and CAAN, on a joint campaign asking representatives of each major party to sign a declaration prioritizing a number of actions related to HIV, hepatitis C, other STBBIs, and to protect gains made in harm reduction. We were happy to partner on the Proud to Vote national campaign, and to support other organizations in their work advocating around harm reduction, sex workers rights, and Canada’s need to step up action to meet its WHO commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
Speaking of hepatitis, I would like to acknowledge the ongoing work of the Pacific Hepatitis C Network (PHCN) for their tireless work on the hepatitis C advocacy front. We have been pleased to work alongside of PHCN over the past year, in advocating for a better coordinated, and sufficiently resourced, provincial response to hepatitis C. We have welcomed the opportunity to deepen our partnership with PHCN and will continue to do so.
I would also like to acknowledge the critical leadership of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, who have effectively advocated regarding shared concerns about the ongoing overly broad and unjust use of the criminal law in relation to HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission. This spring, we saw some positive changes to BC’s prosecutorial guidelines, but there is still more work to do. PAN will continue to work on the provincial level to press for further changes to the province’s prosecutorial guidelines; and – depending on the outcome of the federal election – potentially push for actual law reform.
At the time of writing this, the results of the federal election are unknown, and will no doubt inform the landscape on many levels, including funding levels for the community-based response. This past year the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released a five-year action plan for STBBIs – PAN was invited by PHAC to participate in a series of community consultations on the action plan and the preceding Pan-Canadian STBBI Framework for Action. We were pleased to support the process underway to develop indicators to help evaluate Canada’s progress in meeting our national and global targets, and we will continue to work to bring the voice of community and lived experience to those tables. Very much related, the ongoing funding sustainability of HIV, hepatitis C and related community-level services will continue to be a file that we work actively on in concert with our members and PHAC, along with other key funders at the federal, provincial and regional levels.
The ongoing funding sustainability of HIV, hepatitis C and related community-level services will continue to be a file that we work actively on.
Similarly, the unknown outcome of the federal election also calls into question the future status of supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites, potential gains (or losses) as regards HIV criminalization, the way in which we address hepatitis C, and many other issues. But regardless of what the future holds, the shared collaborative efforts mentioned above – and the many leaders that are active both within and beyond the PAN network – speak to the ongoing power of the community-based movement to strategize, mobilize and lobby. The world is full of challenges, but it also full of people overcoming them.
For more information or to connect with PAN regarding collective advocacy issues, contact J. Evin Jones, Executive Director at [email protected]
Image: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash