Activists outside BC NDP convention push for party to support safe drug supply
VANCOUVER -- Advocates for drug policy reform gathered outside the Victoria Conference Centre Saturday morning to push the BC NDP to do more to address the province's overdose crisis.
The protesters outside the party's 2019 convention came from a variety of community advocacy groups, including Moms Stop the Harm and the South Island Community Overdose Response Network.
"We're a collective of agencies in the Victoria community who are committed to seeing drug policy changes and an end to the deaths that continue," said Jennifer Howard, who held a sign reading "safe supply saves lives. Do something NOW."
The message, Howard said, was as simple as that: the NDP should pass a resolution supporting the decriminalization of drugs and the provision of a "safe supply" of drugs for users who are addicted.
"We're asking - and demanding - that they get down to work and pass this resolution," Howard said. "4,500 British Columbians have died, including my son, since 2016. Many families are mourning the loss of a loved one. We can't continue to sit back and not do more, and the way to end this crisis is to enact safe supply and decriminalization for those who struggle."
Speaking to reporters at the convention Saturday, the premier didn't commit to supporting the resolution, saying only that the party would be "debating those issues" at the convention.
"We've been working tirelessly," Horgan said. "We've seen a decline in overdose deaths, but it's still not acceptable. We're going to work and look at new therapies, new ideas, new suggestions all the time."
The idea behind "safe supply" is to provide drugs that would otherwise be purchased on the street to people who use them. This ensures that the drugs users take aren't laced with fentanyl or other, more dangerous substances, reducing the risk of overdose.
It's the same principle of harm reduction that underlies safe consumption sites, where users can take drugs in a supervised setting, where someone else will be present and able to help if something goes wrong.
The previous BC Liberal government declared a public health emergency regarding opioid overdoses in April 2016, and the NDP government has expanded on the province's response to the crisis since taking office.
That said, Howard and those gathered outside the party's convention say there is much more for the province to do.
"We don't want to see the NDP sitting back, patting themselves on the back saying, 'Our work is done,' around the overdose crisis," she said. "Their work is far from done."