Thursday April 14, 2022
A safe supply of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine is being given out for free to the membership of Drug User Groups across the Province to act in response to the sixth year anniversary of the declaration of a public health emergency in British Columbia, and yet another 174 lives lost to illicit drug toxicity in February.
In response to the sixth year of an ongoing public health emergency, the release of February's Illicit Drug Toxicity Death Numbers, and continued large-scale inaction to stop it, the Drug User Liberation Front has taken matters into its own hands to provide a real regulated supply of drugs to people who use drugs across the province of BC.
BC - On the sixth year anniversary of the public health emergency, declared by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall under the Public Health Act, members of the Drug User Liberation Front provided 17 grams of free heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to members of drug user groups across the province, including:
- British Columbia Association People on Opiate Maintenance
Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War
Coalition of Substance Users of the North
i2i Peer Support
Mountainside Harm Reduction Society
Northern Sun Helpers
The Tenant Overdose Response Organisers
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society
This action aims to demonstrate the life-saving potential of a community-led response to the public health emergency in BC, and escalating overdose deaths rates across Canada, and serves to highlight the need for necessary alternatives to prohibition and the unregulated drug supply. With the goal of illustrating that compassion clubs are a common sense and rational response to drug poisoning deaths, the distributed drugs have been tested via FTIR spectrometry, mass spectrometry, and immunoassay; and are free of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, benzodiazepines and many other harmful cuts, buffs or adulterants.
With the release of the 2021 Corner’s Service report on Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in BC, we now know that 2,224 British Columbians died due to an unpredictable drug supply during the last calendar year. This is a 26% increase in fatalities over 2020, with approximately 7 deaths per day recorded in November and December. These numbers are totally unacceptable and are a direct result of government inaction on scaling up regulated supply programs. In the words of BC’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe:
This public health emergency has impacted families and communities across the province and shows no sign of abating. In 2021 alone, more than 2,200 families experienced the devastating loss of a loved one. In the past seven years, the rate of death due to illicit drug toxicity in our province has risen more than 400%. Drug toxicity is now second only to cancers in B.C. for potential years of life lost. We cannot simply hope that things will improve. It is long past time to end the chaos and devastation in our communities resulting from the flourishing illicit drug market, and to ensure, on an urgent basis, access across the province to a safe, reliable regulated drug supply.
The importance of a non-medicalized compassion club model has been underscored by the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel, which released its Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths on March 9, 2022. The panel was a multi-disciplinary panel of experts in substance use and addictions, medicine, public health, lived experience, regulatory practices, First Nations health, education, poverty reduction, policy, research, housing, labour and law enforcement. Among other findings, the panel states:
The primary cause of increased deaths is the growing toxicity and unpredictability of the street supply of drugs. The current drug policy framework of prohibition is the primary driver of this illegal, unregulated and toxic street supply. Until new regulatory approaches are implemented within the national drug policy framework, and improvements in the quality and reach of the continuum of support, harm reduction and treatment services are made, the risk of significant harms, death and this public health emergency are unlikely to improve.
The panel goes on to urge that “[a] new approach is required, one that includes a specific focus on the toxic drug supply.” With respect to safer supply, the panel states expressly:
Safer supply is a broad concept that exists on a spectrum from a medicalized model treating people with a substance use disorder to a non-prescriber public health model that provides a safer supply of regulated drugs to people. As people use drugs for a variety of reasons, a variety of approaches will be required to provide a safer drug supply to those who need it in the communities where they live. A medicalized model on its own is not sufficient to deliver safer supply to all who need it.
The panel also stressed the need for “an urgent response is required commensurate with the magnitude of the current crisis”, and immediate action in providing a safer supply of drugs.
Consistent with the pleas of the panel and of the BC Coroner, we plead with you to step and take action: either provide the regulated supply that is so desperately needed, or allow us access to the resources and funds to do it ourselves, outside of the constraints of a discriminatory, dysfunctional structure.
We call on every leader in British Columbia and Canada to listen to people who use drugs and live up to their responsibility to stop the drug war’s senseless cycle of death. Our demands are the following:
All levels of government must immediately fund programs for regulated and accessible supplies of all drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth, by directly listening to user groups and people who use drugs, and covering these drugs under Provincial Health Insurance by adding them to the formularies, or allowing us to create routes of access ourselves.
All levels of government must immediately develop an accessible legal framework that decriminalizes, licenses, funds, and provides facility spaces for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine compassion clubs.
All government commissions on drug policy, safe supply, and decriminalization must include meaningful representation from drug user groups. Nothing about us without us.
It is with profound frustration and unimaginable grief, we share this message to provincial and federal government officials: act now, move on over, or we will move over you.
About Drug User Liberation Front
Formed in response to the ever-mounting overdose deaths in BC and across Canada, the Drug User Liberation Front looks to provide tangible solutions to this devastating crisis.
About British Columbia Association People on Opiate Maintenance
The British Columbia Association of People on Opiate Maintenance (BCAPOM) was originally formed in 1999 by a group of people on methadone, but we now include people on all forms of opiate maintenance. Our mission is to support, protect and defend opiate maintenance users’ rights to live free from obstacles caused by prejudice and stigma. BCAPOM educates people about methadone and prescription opiates, and the fight for fair and just access to the opiate medication of our choosing. Our BCAPOM meetings are a place where you can meet people who face the same issues and work together to improve the system for all.
About Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War
The CPDDW exists to change policy and empower people who use drugs, both by filling systemic gaps in healthcare provision, and through long-term systems change. We seek to reclaim knowledge has been stolen from drug users and then used by the Canadian Healthcare System in inadequate and damaging ways. Indeed, after many disappointments in our attempts to work within the medical industrial complex, we have lost faith that the current healthcare regime supports drug user’s involvement in a meaningful or non-tokenistic way. To this end, we seek to collaborate with existing drug user-run institutions in an attempt to battle the current ramifications of what we have dubbed “the Crisis of Prohibition”.
About Coalition of Substance Users of the North
The Coalition of Substance Users of the North (CSUN) is an alliance of people who use or have used currently illegal drugs. Our members are dedicated to improving life for all substance users who live in Northern BC and throughout Canada. CSUN supports substance users by facilitating the development of programs, services, and resources for our community members. CSUN provides regional representation and community-based participation in BC's and Canada's overall response to the toxic supply crisis and any and all matters impacting people who use drugs.
About i2i Peer Support
A peer-led harm reduction project with people who use drugs / have lived experience, on the Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.
About Mountainside Harm Reduction Society
A new society based in Chilliwack, that provides peer support services and harm reduction supplies. Mountainside Harm Reduction Society’s main mandate is to provide education, advocacy and support to aid in the development of a permanent OPS in Chilliwack.
About Northern Sun Helpers
Fort St John
A support group for individuals and families struggling with chaotic patterns of substance use in the North.
SOLID is a non-profit organization that provides peer-based health education and support services to reduce the harms associated with drug use in Victoria. Our mandate is to provide accessible pathways to health and treatment for individuals who are street-involved. Our immediate goal is to help our members stay alive during their most difficult times so that they will have the opportunity to improve their lives with the proper supports in place.
About Tenant Overdose Response Organisers
TORO aims to reduce tenant overdoses and promote the well being of tenants living in SROs, through a culture of respect, dignity, honour and empowerment. The TORO project’s personalized peer harm reduction program builds on existing communities of care among SRO tenants, supplying them with the resources necessary to share knowledge, experience, emotional and practical support in the face of the overdose crisis.
About Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) was formed in 1998 to bring together groups of people who use drugs. VANDU is committed to increasing the capacity of people who use illicit drugs to live healthy and productive lives. We do this by affirming and strengthening people who use illicit drugs to reduce harms both to themselves and their communities.
About Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society
The Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS) is a group of urban Aboriginal peoples who live, work, and play in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. All of our members are current or former illicit drug and/or illicit alcohol users, and we come from all nations – Ojibwe, Cree, Mohawk, and more. We work to give our members a voice, teach advocacy, to empower our people to fight for themselves, and to educate different people about our members’ strengths and challenges.