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Ryan's Mom Goes to Ottawa

“We all put ourselves in danger to some degree or another when we stand up and speak out but we put our children and grandchildren in even greater danger when we don’t!”

Christine Nayler, contributing member:

Part of the work we do at Ryan’s Hope is advocating for changes to Canada's failed drug laws that are costing lives and to call on our elected officials to adopt a compassion health-based approach to addressing this toxic drug crisis that includes decriminalization, safe supply, and increased funding for treatment and recovery. We advocate for better mental health supports, including increased funding for mental health and suicide awareness. As our country and community are facing a housing crisis we use our voice to advocate for increased funding for housing supports that include social housing, rent geared to income units and supportive housing. We advocate for an end to the criminalization for people who use drugs and those who are homeless. We organize community events and rallies to bring awareness to issues facing our community and we speak to media and community groups about these issues.

For me this is one of the most important things we do. We believe in solidarity not charity, and we are committed to amplifying the voices of lived and living experience. This is why we have chosen to remain 100% volunteer run and community supported. It is very hard to challenge the system and speak out about its failures when your funding comes from it. Our son Ryan is dead because of system failures. Those we support continue to failed by the system every single day. Thus we remain resolved to using our family’s lived experience to stand up and speak out.

This week I had the honour of uniting with powerful advocates from across the country as we met on Parliament Hill to stand up and speak out against the harmful and hateful rhetoric that is being used to win support and votes. This type of politics that seeks to divide and uses fear to create an us and them mentality is harmful and will cost lives. Myself and other Moms Stop the Harm advocates who have lost our children to our country’s failed war on drugs were given a seat at the table and an opportunity to have our voices heard. We are so grateful to MP Gord Johns and Jagmeet Singh for valuing our lived experience and creating this opportunity for us. I had the privilege to participate in two press conferences this week. One with Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party, along with MP Mike Morrice and MP Adam Van Koeverden, and fellow MSTH advocates Leslie Mcbain and Ruth Fox. And another with MP Gord Johns, Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP and other MSTH advocates including Angela Vos, Andrea Keller, and Denise Sandul.

Thanks to Gord who arranged a round table discussion in which all MPs were invited, we had the opportunity to share our stories. and our lived experience with the MPs who attended with hearts willing to listen and learn. Many committed themselves to being allies in this fight with us and promised they will take our stories of heartbreak and grief home with them and will use them to propel action and bring change in their communities and in our country.

We had the opportunity to meet one on one with Jagmeet and Gord, and a group of us met with Ministers Bennett (Minster of Mental Health and Addictions) and Duclos (Minister of Health) to discuss the toxic drug crisis and what the government was doing to address it. We challenged them on acting on the recommendations of their own expert task force which called for a compressive health approach to address this public health emergency. While both seemed genuinely interested and caring, they did say that they were only able to continue with the current course of baby steps and pilot projects. This is not enough and we must not be willing to accept what amounts to breadcrumbs when peoples lives are on the line. The Liberal government has only spent 1% of what it spent on Covid-19 to address this public health emergency despite 35,0000+ Canadian lives have been lost to toxic drugs. This is unacceptable and can only be explained by stigma and the government refusal to put people before politics. 1%! Our government is not taking the necessary steps to stop the deaths because the lives of people who use drugs have been deemed less valuable. We must not, and cannot accept this!

During our week at Parliament not one Conservative MP attended our roundtable discussion nor met with us. Leslie Mcbain Co-founder of MSTH reached out to Pierre Poilievre to meet with us three times and he ignored all requests. My own MP Doug Shipley did not attend our roundtable discussion after I personally invited him, which was disappointing but not surprising to me.

It was an emotionally and physically exhausting trip. My week on Parliament ended with a beautiful show of solidarity and strength with vigil of remembrance in memory of those who have been lost to toxic drugs and died in custody and federal and provincial institutions. To meet in person and stand side by side with advocates who have inspired and strengthened me through my journey was beautiful and empowering. We made sure our collective voices were heard this week and we will continue to speak loudly and to hold our government to account.

“We all put ourselves in danger to some degree or another when we stand up and speak out but we put our children and grandchildren in even greater danger when we don’t!”

Press conference with Elizabeth May:

Press conference with Gord Johns and Jagmeet Singh:


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.



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