Updated: Jun 4, 2022
I am writing to ask you to put you and/or your organization’s name and support behind a health crisis, that is overwhelmingly heartbreaking and showing no signs of slowing down, by writing to our federal elected officials in support of Private Member’s Bill C-216:
“An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to enact the Expungement of Certain Drug-related Convictions Act and the National Strategy on Substance Use Act.”
Specifically, we are asking that you write letters of support of Bill C-216 to MPs, the Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and the Prime Minister of Canada.
About 25,000 Canadians have died from the illicit drug toxicity crisis since 2016, according to official figures that are at least 8 months out of date. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an average of 19 Canadians died every day in 2021 from unintentional toxic drug poisoning, with no signs of abating in 2022 (PHAC, 2021).
My son was one of them. In November 2020 my 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 and the last 8 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 community has suffered greatly and lost far too many. The toxic drug crisis continues to take a toll on our community. As the Co-founder and Director of Ryan’s Hope and an advocate for Moms Stop The Harm I vocally advocate for decriminalization and safe supply. These are the actions that we need to take to end these preventable deaths.
The most recent BC Coroners Service report was published on February 9, 2022, and reports that in BC: In 2021, there were 2,224 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, the most ever recorded in a year. This represents a 26% increase over the number of deaths seen in 2020 (1,767).
When Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe, released her report, she stated:
"Clearly the status quo is not working. If the criminalization of drugs and drug users was supposed to reduce harms and prevent deaths, it is clearly an abject and very costly failure. It has resulted in shame, fear, and punishment for people of all ages and all walks of life. It has targeted people who are vulnerable and suffering. It has separated families, eliminated opportunities, and caused severe health outcomes. It has created a flourishing market for unregulated illicit drug trade that must constantly recruit new drug users to continue to thrive. It is the antithesis of compassion."
Bill C-216 has the potential to turn the tide in this ongoing and escalating public health emergency by moving from an approach that compounds the harms of addiction to one based on health. This has been called for by numerous drug policy reform advocates, health and safety leaders, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, and the Liberal government's own Expert Task Force on Substance Use.
Bill C-216 will enact drug policy reforms to greatly reduce the harms and stigma associated with drug criminalization, that have disproportionately impacted black, Indigenous, and other people of colour, as well as develop and implement a national health-based strategy to address the rates of toxic drug poisonings by expanding access to safer supply, harm reduction, and trauma-informed treatment options.
The status quo is not working. We need policy change now and you can have a critical impact by supporting Private Member’s Bill C-216. I am counting on you to support this bill, to ensure we stop these preventable deaths. Our communities, provinces, and country desperately need this.
Letter templates for writing to the Prime Minister, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and other Members of Parliament can be found here.
Warmly, Christine Nayler (she/her) Co-founder and Director of Ryan's Hope