Updated: May 30
Advocates from across the country will be gathering in Ottawa at Parliament Hill on June 1, to advocate for Safe Supply and other Harm Reduction measures – change policy, end stigma, and save lives!
Christine Nayler, contributing member:
On May 28th I will be traveling to Ottawa to stand united with advocates from across our province and country to advocate in support of Safe Supply and other Harm Reduction measures that meet people where they are and help keep them alive. Our country needs to move forward not backwards when it comes to measures to address the toxic drug crisis.
Measures taken to date to address the toxic drug crisis have failed. The results of these failures are heartbreaking in the extreme. Since 2016 over 35,000 Canadians have lost their lives due to our country’s failed drug policies. Our son was one of them.
Last year at this time I travelled to Ottawa with a group of local mothers who also lost their children to toxic drugs. We went there to be present for the vote on Bill C-216, which was put forward by Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni. This Bill was for a comprehensive health care approach to address the toxic drug crisis and to treat it as the public health emergency that it is. Sadly in a vote on June 1st, 2022 the Bill was defeated and was not even sent to committee for further study.
Since that time the number of deaths due to toxic drugs rose from 27,000 to 35,000. This number is staggering and should outrage Canadians and yet it doesn’t. Why?
Every drug death is a policy failure and a policy choice! Every life lost mattered! Every loss affects a family and leaves ripples of grief, trauma, and heartbreak in communities across our country.
In November 2020 our worst nightmare came true. We lost our son Ryan to a toxic drug poisoning. As much as I wanted it to not be real, to wake up and it all be a bad dream, it wasn’t. On Ryan’s 35th birthday instead of celebrating we buried our son. Ryan lived with concurrent disorders, having both bipolar disorder, and substance use disorder. The last eight years of his life were a struggle. It didn’t have to be that way and I truly believe if society supported instead of shamed those with mental illness and substance use issues Ryan’s story would have had a different ending.
Since Ryan’s passing my husband and I formed a non-profit organization in Ryan’s memory and honour. Our mission is to advocate for and support those living with mental illness, substance use issues and experiencing homelessness. Our work brings into contact with so many that are struggling with substance use issues in our community. We have needlessly lost so many members of our community. These deaths were preventable! Our city has suffered greatly and we have lost far too many lives. The toxic drug crisis continues to take a toll on our community. As the Co-founder and Director of Ryan’s Hope, and as an advocate for Moms Stop the Harm I vocally advocate for Decriminalization, and Safe Supply.
Last year I traveled to Ottawa with Angela Vos, fellow Moms Stop The Harm advocate and Tracking (In)Justice member. June 1st is the 3rd anniversary of the death of Angela’s son Jordan who died of a toxic drug poisoning while in custody. He was 26 years old! He was in custody at Central East Correctional Center, a medium and maximum security Provincial jail near Peterborough, Ontario. Jordan was one of 23 people to die in provincial custody under the supervision of the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General (SOLGEN) in 2020.
We were joined in Ottawa by MSTH advocate and nurse Andrea Keller. Andrea’s son died of toxic drug poisoning in March 2017. Andrea says “There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel the grief in some way. This is a crisis that is affecting everyone and it could be you, your family, your loved one. Stop turning a blind eye and join us in raising our voices to the people who can make these changes.”
We will unite once again in Ottawa along with other grieving parents, and advocates to share our lived experiences and make our collective voices heard.
Public health experts, law enforcement, front line workers and people with lived and living experience have long called for a shift in Canada’s approach to substance use, including: decriminalizing simple possession, expungement of convictions records and universal access to treatment and recovery programs and education. Yet instead of moving forward in a more health and evidence-based approach to address this public health emergency the Conservatives are calling for measures to reverse the small steps in the right direction we have taken and bring us even further backwards with our country’s drug policy.
This is why advocates from across the country will stand united on Parliament Hill on June 1st. The cost of not standing up and speaking out is too high. Together we will change policy, end stigma, and save lives!
Engage Barrie Organization encourages our members and guests to contribute blog posts on a variety of topics that fall under our "equitable, empowered, engaged" umbrella, in the hopes of sharing a variety of perspectives and experiences. Please be aware that the views and opinions expressed by our blog contributors do not necessarily reflect any official position of Engage Barrie Organization.