Formally communicating with government ministries, funders, health authorities and related allies and stakeholders is just one part of our work on policy change and collective action.
We consult with our members to discuss research findings, experiences, and priorities from across the province. With this information, we represent a collective voice for our members on issues that impact the health of people our member organizations serve. Contact our Executive Director, J. Evin Jones, for more information.
Entries are posted by most recent activity.
Wednesday, April 14 will mark the 5th anniversary of the declaration of the BC Public Health Emergency of overdose and overdose deaths. This anniversary comes on the heels of BC’s deadliest year ever with 1,716 lives lost to Illicit drug overdoses in 2020. COVID-19 has had a terrible toxifying impact on the illicit drug market. Much work has been done by peers, by workers on the front lines, by human rights and other advocates, and by public health. Sadly, we are still so far from addressing this crisis.
As we near April 14, 2021 and the five-year anniversary of the Provincial Medical Health Officer declaring a public health emergency of overdose and overdose deaths, it is a solemn occasion. Over 7000 people have died since the declaration. Last year alone, 1716 people died–the highest number of overdose deaths, ever, in the province. Currently more than 5 people every day are dying. Clearly, despite the best efforts of drug users, peers, front line workers, and public health what we are doing is not enough. It is time to do more. It is time for bold leadership. We urgently call on you to implement the recommendations of Dr. Bonnie Henry contained within her 2019 Report Stopping the Harm. We also call on you to submit a formal application to the federal government for a section 56(1) exemption. Read more
We are writing to you as 16 leading provincial, national or territorial networks and associations addressing HIV, hepatitis C and other STBBIs, to request a meeting to discuss future funding for our sector. Despite the impact of COVID-19, Canada must not lose ground, in addressing HIV, hepatitis C and other STBBIs. PHAC’s recently released report has confirmed that “Canada is closing the gap; however, progress is slow and there is still work to be done in order to meet the 90-90-90” (UNAIDS HIV targets). It is less clear how Canada is faring with its other international commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals, and the World Health Organization’s viral hepatitis 2030 elimination target. Read more
From letter to BC CDC by PAN Executive Director J. Evin Jones: I write to express our concerns over the closure of the Bute St. Clinic, formerly co-located with QMUNITY. For decades the Bute St. Clinic provided essential, low barrier sexual health testing services. The clinic enjoyed an excellent reputation. It served residents not only of the West End and downtown Vancouver, but people from across the Lower Mainland and beyond in search of queer friendly and non-judgmental health care.
Such confidential, anonymous and queer positive testing services are still the preferred option for many. We are concerned both that the Clinic has been closed since March 2020 (due to COVID-19); and by the recent announcement that this will be a permanent closure. We urge the PHSA and BCCDC to fund and complete plans for a new home for the Bute St. Clinic as soon as possible. Read more.
Minister, as we did last year, we write on behalf of the members of the Pacific AIDS Network to respond to your 2020 World AIDS Day message. Community Based Organizations (CBOs) work with some of the most vulnerable members of our society and provide services that are flexible, timely, and highly cost-effective in communities across the province. In many instances, they are the vital link for people living with HIV (PLHIV) in maintaining their connections with healthcare and treatment adherence, not to mention their work in preventing HIV transmission through harm reduction programming, education and support of priority populations. Given all of this, we were puzzled and disappointed to read, for the second year in a row, that your World AIDS Day message failed to acknowledge the critical contributions of PAN members and the community-based sector. Read more.
“We write during challenging times, and we acknowledge COVID-19 and its impact on PHAC and the Ministry of Health – but we cannot lose sight, or ground, in addressing HIV, hepatitis C and other STBBIs. In advance of World AIDS Day 2020, it is important to acknowledge the progress made. We have made good gains with respect to our international commitments, but much work remains to be done. This will take a concerted effort and a reaffirmation at the federal level is essential, including sufficient funding for our response.
We are concerned that the current level of federal resourcing for addressing HIV, hepatitis C and other STBBIs is insufficient.” Read more.
PAN has sent a letter to Minister Dix (Minister of Health) and Minister Farnworth (Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General) that detailed our collective concerns regarding the roll-out of safer supply during the COVID-19 emergency – including a lack of a sufficient number of prescribers, a lack of pharmacists, overly conservative interpretation of the guidance and a lack of safe supply, information and supports for people who use stimulants and other substances.
PAN signed onto this letter from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Pivot Legal Society and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition – they joined forces to call on the Minister of Health and other key ministers in the federal government to immediately decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in response to the twin crises of opioid overdoses and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The BC and Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors sent a letter to the provincial government 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). PAN, along with many community groups and individuals, signed in support of the open letter 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’s voice joined over 150 national and provincial organizations co-signing a letter to Minister Morneau asking for the necessary commitments for pharmacare in this year’s federal budget.
“The majority of Canadians voted for pharmacare in the 2019 election. We are counting on
your government to fulfill its promise to Canadians.”
“We write in the wake of your December 1st, 2019 World AIDS Day Announcement. There is much to celebrate about the record low cases of HIV and AIDS in BC. We applaud your government’s decision to expand public funding for pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis medication. We applaud the continued resourcing of the treatment as prevention approach, and the critical work of Dr. Julio Montaner and his colleagues at the BC Centre for Excellence. We are mindful, however, that these are shared successes, attributable to the work and efforts of countless individuals and numerous agencies and organizations across the province – many on the front lines of our communities. Staff and volunteers of community-based organizations – many of them people living with HIV – have made key contributions across the continuum of care, supporting efforts to test and treat and link people to care.
We want to underscore the importance of not losing momentum. We are concerned about the current lack of a comprehensive provincial strategy vis-à-vis HIV and AIDS in this province.”
The UNAIDS theme of World AIDS Day 2019 was “Communities make the difference” and PAN was part of a community effort working to address stigma in BC. We worked in collaboration with Health Authority representatives to developed anti-stigma messages that Health Authorities shared to their networks, encouraging people to consider the impact stigma can have on health, healthcare access, and community wellness for people living with and affected by HIV or AIDS.
PAN worked in collaboration with the Alberta Community Council on HIV (ACCH), Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA), and the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN) to honour the government’s contributions to the increase in funding to the Global Fund and highlight issues for our sector that need attention. Some of these include reaffirming the commitment of Canada to the UNAIDS objectives for the elimination of HIV by 2030; ensuring the sustainability of the front-line community-based response to HIV, hepatitis C and STBBIs through the stability and growth of the Community Action Fund and other funding initiatives; removal of HIV non-disclosure from the reach of sexual assault law; ensuring that the Government of Canada does not create barriers to the provinces’ harm reduction and overdose prevention-based public health interventions; pursuing the decriminalization of sex work as a first step to protecting and respecting the human rights of all sex workers, and other issues. Read complete letter.
PAN collaborated with partners across Canada on a number of activities leading up to the Federal Election in October 2019. Our work was to support member groups and allies to assess campaign information, and to advocate with political parties and candidates regarding HIV, hepatitis C, and other STBBIs.
PAN was part of a national conversation with multiple partners including the Ontario AIDS Network, the Alberta Community Council on HIV in Alberta, COCQ-SIDA, and others, regarding Canada’s role in resourcing for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. A letter was sent to the Prime Minister regarding community concerns. Learn more
PAN has endorsed the call for the federal government to fix the flaws in its “Prison Needle Exchange Program” (PNEP), so prisoners have easy and confidential access to sterile injection equipment. We share this so others may consider doing so as well. Learn more
PAN wrote a letter of support to Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, thanking her for the Special Report Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of people who use drugs in BC. The report was released three years after her predecessor Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency in response to the ever escalating crisis of overdose and overdose deaths in this province. With nearly 100 people dying every month, this is a crisis that is by no means over and without an end in sight. Learn more
Along with a number of community advocates, in the spring of 2019 PAN submitted letter to the Canadian Medical Association regarding the Draft Canadian Medical Association’s Policy on HIV. We are aware that PAN member organizations and public health representatives did the same and we will continue to follow this and share as we learn more. For details, feel free to contact PAN’s Executive Director, J. Evin Jones. PAN sent a letter to the Canadian Medical Association, which begins:
This proposed policy, that encourages and/or directs physicians to involuntarily disclose an individual’s HIV status to partners, is not only unnecessary, it has the potential to create harm by increasing HIV-related stigma, negatively impacting physician-patient relationships, and have ancillary impacts such as discouraging testing and seeking medical care. Read letter in full
Joint Letter to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General: A Harm Reduction-Based Approach to Policing
PAN signed onto a joint letter, along with other advocates, that was addressed to the Hon. Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and sent in June 2019.
Dear Minister Farnworth,
Re: A harm reduction-based approach to policing
Approximately one month ago, you summarily dismissed the Provincial Health Officer’s urgent call to effectively decriminalize illicit drug possession in B.C., within hours of the Health Officer releasing her report. Currently, nearly 100 people die across the province every month of fatal overdose. Rather than meaningfully respond to this crisis with evidence-based drug policy, you cited jurisdictional constraints in order to reject recommendations supporting a harm reduction-based provincial policing priority and legislative amendments to divert police resources away from drug possession enforcement. You maintained that “no one province can go it alone.” We urge you to reconsider. Learn more
PAN and other allied organizations including the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (CHLN) have been in contact with BC Attorney General David Eby’s office regarding collective concerns about the ongoing overly broad and unjust use of the criminal law in relation to HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission. We have called on the Attorney General to ensure that BC’s prosecutorial guidelines are evidence-based, including the evidence of U=U, which has been formally endorsed by Canada; as well as the latest international Expert consensus statement on the science of HIV in the context of criminal law. In April 2019. we were advised by the Attorney General’s office that the BC Prosecution Services had decided to issue a revised policy as part of its Crown Counsel Policy Manual (ostensibly in light of the federal prosecutorial guidelines). Learn more
Updated BC Crown Counsel Prosecution Guidelines and Sex 2 policy
The spring of 2018 saw the publication of the updated BC Crown Counsel Prosecution Guidelines including the Sex 2 policy, which indicates how people living with HIV may be charged in cases of non-disclosure of HIV. On May 31st, we posted a blog by PAN’s Executive Director, J. Evin Jones, BC’s New Prosecutorial Guidelines on HIV Non-Disclosure Murky and Troublesome. In it she described collective “concerns that the policy is too vague and that it does not provide enough guidance – particularly given (the) lack of Risk of sexual transmission of HIV from a person living with HIV who has an undetectable viral loadconsensus statement mention.”
PAN sent a letter to BC’s Attorney General, David Eby on June 25, 2018. It reads, in part,
The failure of the BC Prosecution Service to adopt an evidence-based approach is of great concern. We therefore call upon you in your role as Attorney General, to work to ensure that BC prosecutors do not prosecute people in those circumstances that Justice Canada has concluded do not warrant prosecution.
PAN received a letter of response July 13, 2018. It reads, in part,
I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that it is not my role to become involved in the day-to-day operations of the BCPS [BC Prosecution Service]. The BCPS manages the prosecution function on behalf of the Attorney General. British Columbia is very different from most other jurisdictions in Canada. In British Columbia it is Crown Counsel, not the police, who decide whether criminal charges should be approved.
The Prosecution Service readily acknowledges the understandable concerns expressed about stigmatization associated with an HIV-specific offence. BCPS policies are reviewed on a regular and ongoing basis to ensure they accurately reflect developments in Canadian criminal law, respond appropriately to emerging trends or community needs—including scientific developments—and reasonably balance individual rights with societal interests..
PAN remains deeply troubled about how the Sex 2 policy may be applied, and will continue to work with provincial and national partners on this advocacy issue.
PAN Outreach to Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions
In January 2018, PAN sent a letter to Doug Hughes, the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to request an in-person meeting to discuss how PAN might support the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in addressing the overdose emergency. The letter included an introduction to PAN’s work, leadership in the opioid response, and provided background for the potential discussion. Its points include:
- Our membership includes many harm reduction agencies on the frontlines of the opioid crisis which is an ongoing priority for PAN.
- PAN as a provincial network, is committed to doing all that we can to provide support, capacity building and education for frontline workers and PWLE – the vast majority of which unfortunately do not have access to the same supports and resources as first-responders and public health/primary care workers. As documented in our widely circulated Rapid Assessment Report, responses from those working directly with the crisis, were clustered around similar needs related to supporting staff, clients, peers at the frontlines, as well as increased training opportunities, enhanced knowledge sharing, and increased funding.
- Since May of 2017, we have been meeting on an ongoing monthly basis with Ministry of Health and Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions staff to discuss areas of collaboration and for the purposes of information sharing. In late December we were pleased to invite staff from the new provincial Overdose Emergency Response Centre (OERC) to join these standing meetings.
- PAN and our members have been proud to work alongside the province, the health authorities and the BC-CfE vis-à-vis STOP. For the OD crisis, we fully support the development of a Cascade of care (like STOP) and wrap-around services (like the HIV response). We are awaiting a response from Deputy Minister Hughes.
2017 and Earlier
Visit our Government and Stakeholder Communications History for more