Category "News/Canada/British Columbia"

5May

B.C. artists stage Chicago-inspired performance spotlighting disrespect faced by people with disabilities | CBC News

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The cast members in a theatrical performance being staged virtually this week aren’t likely to attack anyone who parks in a handicapped spot, but their fictional characters might.

Wheel Voices: Tune In! is a mashup of original scenes, rap, spoken word and songs featuring 14 Lower Mainland artists. It is the latest production by Realwheels Theatre, a company dedicated to telling stories that deepen people’s understanding about disabilities.

The show premiers online at 7 p.m. Wednesday and includes a parody of the famous Cell Block Tango song from the 1975  musical Chicago in which six female prisoners share via song the details of the murders they committed that put them behind bars.

“They had it coming, they only have themselves to blame,” the women sing.

In Wheel Voices, the song is titled Disability Cell Block Tango and the victims are people who cut in front of wheelchair users to access public transit, people who take up handicapped spots and others who have disrespected people living with disabilities.

Amelia Cooper says it’s frustrating when people cut in front of wheelchair users to access public transit. (Facebook/RealwheelsTheatre)

“We always think about what we would do to those people,” said performer Amelia Cooper, during an interview with CBC’s The Early Edition guest host Michelle Eliot.

As a wheelchair user,  she’s irked by people who cut in line through the wheelchair gate at transit stations. Another move she finds offensive is when people offer to bring up her situation with God.

“I’ve had multiple people come up to me and try to pray for me,” said Cooper.

The chorus of Disability Cell Block Tango reveals the characters sought the ultimate revenge on all these offenders: “Compass gate, prayer circle, parking spot … they had it coming,” is the parody’s chorus.

Cooper said creating these characters and their costumes was a blast. She plays an incarcerated drug dealer who trades narcotics for crafts while in jail. A jail where the cells have wheelchair buttons.

“Part of the reason we do it is to bring about awareness so that people know and they can try and help reduce the amount of struggles that people with disabilities have to go through,” said Cooper about staging productions with a purpose.

Wheel Voices: Tune In! can be watched online at 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday, May 5, with American Sign Language  interpretation. A second performance will be presented at the same time on May 14 with audio description.

Both performances are followed by a Q&A with cast and crew.

The Early Edition8:00“Comedic revenge fantasy” by people with disabilities

Amelia Cooper is the writer, and one of the performers in “The Disability Cell Block Tango.” It’s one of the pieces tonight as part of RealWheel’s online show “Wheel Voices: Tune In!” It’s a “pay-what-you-can” show, starting at 7 pm. And if you miss it, there’s a second show on May 14th. You can get tickets at realwheels.ca 8:00

5May

Concrete barriers coming to Stanley Park Drive to keep cars and bikes apart | CBC News

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New plans unveiled for the hotly-debated roadway bike lane through Stanley Park show concrete barriers will be installed the length of Stanley Park Drive later this summer.

A statement  from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation says changes will be rolled out in three phases and will provide safer and more accessible ways to bike, drive, walk and roll though Stanley Park.

“The plan builds on public and stakeholder feedback and user data to ensure safer access for all park users during a period when many Vancouverites are looking for ways to stay healthy outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the statement.

Phase one coming later this month calls for traffic cones to separate the bike and vehicle lanes on Stanley Park Drive, from Pipeline Road North to Second Beach.

Signs and other traffic devices will be installed to direct drivers and cyclists. The seawall is remaining open to bikes, giving cyclists the option of either route.

Phase two slated for mid-June calls for staff to evaluate the section of Park Drive from the roundabout near Lost Lagoon and Pipeline Road North. 

Phase three in July is when the concrete barriers arrive to replace the traffic cones. They will be installed the length of Stanley Park Drive, with access gaps at intersections and crosswalks and for emergency and service vehicles.  

The City of Vancouver has unveiled a three-phase plan for the spring and summer of 2021 for walkers, cyclists, skaters and motorists in Stanley Park. (City of Vancouver)

The statement says work on the long-term Stanley Park mobility study continues and will incorporate feedback from this spring and summer’s roll out.

In March, the park board voted to reinstate a bike-only lane along the two-lane Stanley Park Drive, reducing vehicle traffic to a single lane.

Critics have argued the decision is unfair to park businesses and people with accessibility concerns.

3May

Daytime camping ban begins in Victoria as advocates work to find housing for those in need | CBC News

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As of Saturday, a bylaw prohibiting daytime camping in Victoria city parks has come into effect, and people in those areas are being asked to leave by 7:00 a.m. PT. Tents can be put back up at 8:00 p.m. during the summer and 7:00 p.m. in the winter. 

However, anyone who has already agreed to move into temporary housing, including a tiny-home village or one of the temporary housing sites that already exists or is being built, won’t have to take down their tents in the morning, according to the city’s mayor.

“They need to get on the B.C. housing registry if they’re homeless,” Victoria mayor Lisa Helps told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. 

“I don’t want people camping in the city of Victoria. It’s not good for anyone. I mean, that’s been abundantly clear.”

She said anyone who isn’t homeless and is just camping overnight should look for an alternative place to set up camp.

“Our parks are not campgrounds,” she said. 

To hear Victoria mayor Lisa Helps’ interview on CBC’s On the Island, click here: 

On The Island9:53Moving from parks to shelter spaces – we spoke with the Mayor of Victoria about the latest on the camping situation in Victoria

Gregor Craigie spoke with Mayor Lisa Helps of Victoria about the end of daylight camping. 9:53

Helps said bylaw officers and police went into parks to enforce the rule over the weekend and advocates were also there to help people. According to reports the mayor received, everything went “relatively well.”

“In terms of danger or fear or worry, everything went went relatively smoothly,” Helps said. 

Over the next few weeks, tents will come down as people who have signed on for temporary or transitional housing will gradually be moved into those spaces. Helps said as of Monday, 20 people will move from various parks around the city into the Russell Street transitional housing. 

Others will move into other transitional or supportive housing facilities in the city, including a few available rooms at the Capital City Center Hotel

More housing coming

A tiny-home village, made of shipping containers, is set to open for residents May 12. 

It has space for 30 residents. 

Shipping container tiny-homes in Victoria will look like this one, staged for a media tour in late April. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

“Just the act of having a roof over your head, a shower, a washroom, privacy, an opportunity to build community, feel welcome, feel part of community, that alone helps to to bring down people’s stress and provide an opportunity for some stability which they may not have had for years,” Kelly Roth, the executive director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, told CBC’s Rohit Joseph. 

The tiny-home village in Victoria, B.C., will provide a safe, private living space for 30 residents. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

Neighbours of 865 Catherine Street in Victoria are invited to participate in an online consultation Monday about plans for a 45-unit supportive housing facility.

Heidi Hartman, B.C. Housing’s Vancouver Island Regional Director, said staff do a careful assessment of each resident who will move into the building. She expects these won’t be people coming directly from a park, but from another temporary shelter site where they will have lived until the Catherine Street building is ready for move-in. 

“This is purpose-built housing,” Hartman said.  

“From my experience up and down the island … when we’ve opened a permanent, purpose-built, supportive housing like [what] will go into Catherine Street, it’s integrated very well into the community.”

To hear sound from CBC’s tour of the new tiny-home village in Victoria, B.C., click here: 

All Points West8:09Victoria’s first tiny home village nears completion

Built from re-purposed shipping containers, the tiny home village will provide transitional housing for 30 people. CBC’s Rohit Joseph toured the site, located in the parking lot next to Royal Athletic Park. You will hear from Melanie Ransome with Aryze Developments, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Kelly Roth with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and Julian Daly, the CEO of Our Place. 8:09

30Apr

Urban design study envisions walking made easier in Vancouver’s historic Gastown | CBC News

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Leaders in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood are asking the public to comment on its future design and how space in the area can be reclaimed for public use. 

This comes in response to the City of Vancouver’s 2040 Transportation Plan, approved back in 2012, which aims to reduce emissions by encouraging more use of public transportation, cycling and travelling on foot. 

The Gastown Business Improvement Society (GBIS) commissioned local architecture firm ph5 to complete an urban design study in 2019, hoping to find out how Gastown could become more usable and livable. It was completed in February 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the group from releasing the results and asking the public to engage. 

“While Gastown remains a thriving business community, there is a sense of urgency to restore this National Historic Site to the jewel of the city that it needs to be,” GBIS executive director Walley Wargolet said in a media release. 

Among the recommendations are reducing vehicle traffic, and increasing space on sidewalks for pedestrians, along with creating more cohesive pedestrian networks. 

“We imagine Water Street as much more of a shared street with wider sidewalks, bicycles and a car lane,” ph5 architect and partner Peeroj Thakre told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko. 

“We see it as changing the proportions of it. So it’s a quieter street but it’s still accessible for all modes of transportation.” 

A study by architecture firm ph5 Inc. suggests more accessibility in terms of cycling and walking in Gastown. (Submitted by Sarah Bancroft)

They’re also looking at how alleyways can be better utilized for public use. In the past, Gastown alleys were once home to pubs, stables and manufacturers. Today, a few restaurants have alleyway entrances, but the study suggests other businesses could have garage-style doors to “restore the warehouse feel” of the community. Additionally, social services could be available like washrooms and drop-in centre, Thakre said. 

To accommodate that change, waste collection and lighting would need to be reevaluated. 

Creating more space for public gathering is also on the list, primarily on the west and east ends of the neighbourhood. 

“Much of Gastown, its public space, is about movement and there’s very little space for gathering,” Thakre said. 

“We’re trying to look at how all the spaces of Gastown work together to create a healthy and vibrant and equitable public realm for businesses, workers, all residents and visitors.”

Public engagement

Now, stakeholders are looking to the public for input on their plans.  

A campaign called Gastown Tomorrow was launched earlier this week with the unveiling of an outdoor gallery exhibition, featuring large scale work from five local artists.

Art installations in Gastown are asking the public to engage with a study about the future of the neighbourhood. (Submitted by Sarah Bancroft)

Each piece features a part of Gastown that could change, including Water Street, Blood Alley and Maple Tree Square. 

The pieces can be viewed outside Vancouver Film School on Water Street. 

The gallery is the first of several engagement sessions the GBIS plans to host,and Thakre said residents can expect to start seeing posters, coffee sleeves and take-out bags in the area with printed designs asking people to provide feedback. 

“The plan itself is a long and detailed document and the engagement process is really intended to bring it to life,” Thakre said. 

To hear Peeroj Thakre’s interview with On the Coast, click here: 

On The Coast7:45Gastown Tomorrow

A community initiative is looking at how Gastown’s infrastructure can be improved. We speak to one of the top architects, Peeroj Thakre, about the project. 7:45

27Apr

COVID-19 cases at height of 3rd wave in B.C. disproportionately affecting South Asian communities | CBC News

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For the last year, there have been anecdotal reports of COVID-19 disproportionately affecting South Asian communities in British Columbia, but the province hadn’t provided any data to contextualize the situation. 

Now the government has given the number of cases on a neighbourhood level for one week at the height of the third wave — and it appears to underline those claims.

“It is consistent with what we have expected and anticipated,” said Dr. Birinder Narang, a physician and member of the South Asian COVID-19 Task Force.

There are eight community health services areas (CHSAs) where at least 25 per cent of people identify as South Asian in the 2016 Census. All eight were in the 13 areas the province has scheduled mass AstraZeneca vaccine clinics due to high transmission. 

Those eight hotspots are all in Fraser Valley South, and all have at least 35 per cent immigrant populations. 

“While we didn’t have the data to inform that before, I think that this just adds to what we already knew,” said Narang.

“I think if we had that data earlier on in the pandemic, then there could have been resources targeted to these areas where we know there have been more people affected.”

‘More concerted effort’

In the second wave of the pandemic, cases surged between Delta and Abbotsford, and the province noted significant transmission was happening among people of South Asian descent.

But there was also criticism the province failed to provide enough communication in a multitude of South Asian languages, or acknowledge the economic and social reasons multi-generational households could increase spread.  

Narang said the province had improved somewhat on both fronts, but more could be done. 

“I think that there has been a more concerted effort  … through mainstream media, ethnic media, town halls and community outreach,” he said, while saying the province could provide more funding to grassroots organizations trying to fill the gap.  

B.C. lags behind in data

The data is only a snapshot of one week’s worth of cases in CHSAs — 195 smaller neighbourhood health regions across the province — and only for the 13 CHSAs with the highest transmission. 

After months of declining to do so, in late 2020 the government started providing weekly data for local health regions (LHAs). While Vancouver has six LHAs, every other municipality has only one at most, including Surrey. 

Narang said having that level of data through the pandemic would have been helpful in warning communities when cases were rising in their neighbourhoods. 

“There have been accessibility issues to information, to testing potentially, and also now with vaccinations,” he said. 

“And so at all levels of the pandemic, having that data to guide us could have kind of strengthened the responses and targeted responses in these areas.”

SFU professor Ahmed Al-Rawi, director of The Disinformation Project at SFU, said B.C.’s decision to not provide COVID-19 data at the same level as most Canadian provinces has had drawbacks.

“It’s frustrating, to be honest with you, because the public should know what is going on,” he said. 

“People are already frustrated with the lack of information about what to do. They need to know more in order to give them more assurances about how things are going, and hope that what they are doing is working.”

Last Thursday CBC News asked the government if they would provide case counts for the 182 other CHSAs in the province, and sent subsequent emails and phone calls to the BC Centre for Disease Control, Ministry of Health and premier’s office in hopes of getting a response.

To date, one has not been sent. 

28Jul

B.C. community sport organizations to receive $1.5 million to survive pandemic | CBC News

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Community sport organizations in British Columbia will share $1.5 million in provincial government funding to help them survive the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa Beare, B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, says the funding will help many of the province’s 4,100 local sports organizations facing financial hardship without their registration fees, event revenues and sponsorships.

Beare says the pandemic has been difficult for community swimming, gymnastics, baseball and other local sports that rely largely on volunteer support but also have fixed costs.

A Victoria-area baseball team accompanied Beare for her outdoor announcement on the front lawn of the B.C. legislature.

Beare says the funding will be provided to amateur organizations and does not apply to B.C.’s semi-professional hockey and soccer leagues, that are also facing financial difficulties in the pandemic.

Minister Lisa Beare says underrepresented populations are often disproportionately affected by a reduction in physical activity opportunities, as a result of COVID-19. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

She says the $1.5 million contribution is accompanied by federal Heritage Canada funding of $3.4 million to assist B.C.’s provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations.

“We have 4,100 various community organizations throughout the province, and it could be your local swim club or your local gymnastics team or community soccer club,” Beare said.

“These funds are going to be for the operational costs of the organizations so that they are able to keep their doors open.”

Despite the funding announcement, Beare says the province has no set date for when sports organizations will be allowed to start their seasons. That decision, she said, lies with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Lack of information, say sport organizations

While the financial assistance is more than welcomed, many in youth sport organizations in B.C. say they feel like they’ve been completely left in the dark by the province about what the future holds.

Jeff Clarke, technical director at Surrey United Soccer Club, says families and parents are desperate to know not just whether their kids can participate in youth sports in the future, but how it will look, and whether it can be done safely during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, Clarke says his team doesn’t have the answers, as they await instructions from the province that never seem to materialize.

“You’re just chasing your tails a little bit and trying to give people diplomatic answers, which only goes so far. Now, every day that ticks on, we’re getting closer to the season,” he said.

A soccer pitch sits empty amid COVID-19 lockdowns. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Pasquale Balletta with the Burnaby Soccer Association agrees that there’s been a lack of information provided from the government.

He says most sport organizations are planning three, six months, sometimes even a year, in advance — something that has become impossible in the current climate.

“It has been very stressful,” said Pasquale.

And both Pasquale and Clarke worry what kind of effect a prolonged absence from youth sports can have on young people.

“This is more than just the Surrey United Soccer program. This is about raising young individuals and giving them structure and [keeping] them away from temptation,” said Clarke. “This is worrisome for us on many levels.”

 

28Jul

Vancouver city councillor wants temporary restaurant, bar patios made permanent | CBC News

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A Vancouver city councillor wants to make the temporary patios that have popped up outside restaurants, cafes, bars and breweries during the COVID-19 pandemic a permanent fixture in the city every summer. 

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung says she’s filed a draft motion to Vancouver city council asking staff to report back on the results of the city’s Temporary Expedited Patio Program, as well as options to have an annual seasonal patio program. 

“I think it’s something that people would like to see stick around,” Kirby-Yung said.

“We’ve unleashed an appetite for much more creative, people-focused use of our public space, and I’d like to see that continue.”

260 patios approved

The city started accepting applications for the temporary patios on June 1, after the provincial government decided to allow businesses like restaurants, cafés and breweries to apply to expand their service licenses.

The province recognized the need to help the hard hit restaurant industry recover from the pandemic. The wider service area was not meant to increase occupancy levels, but to allow for physical distancing. 

Local governments were tasked with approving the patio requests, and since then, more than 260 patios have popped up throughout Vancouver. 

Motion to be reviewed on Sept. 15 

In addition to the social aspects of more patios, Kirby-Yung said they have been a lifeline for the city’s struggling restaurant sector. 

“They said they just couldn’t have made the numbers work with the physical distancing requirements if they had been limited to their indoor spaces,” Kirby-Yung said.

“This is something that has honestly kept them going.”

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said it makes “complete sense.”
 
“Business likes certainty and as a result they will be able to build patio sales into their business plan in the future,” Tostenson said.
 


 
As far as opposition goes, Kirby-Yung says she’s heard little pushback besides some accessibility concerns that have more to do with items like bicycles resting near the patios, which have to be taken down every day. 
 
The motion also proposes a review of the nine pop-up plazas across the city that provide commons-style gathering and eating spaces.

Kirby-Yung says the motion will be reviewed during a Sept. 15 meeting following the council’s summer break.

For now, people can enjoy Vancouver’s new patios until the end of October, when the current licenses expire. 

24Jul

Indigenous man sues RCMP in B.C., claiming ‘abusive’ use of police dog left him in ‘agony’ | CBC News

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A man from Kamloops, B.C., is suing an RCMP officer from Prince George after being attacked by a police dog during a violent arrest caught on surveillance video more than four years ago.

Cuyler Richard Aubichon, who is Indigenous, claims Const. Joshua Grafton and the RCMP were “reckless, arrogant, high-handed [and] abusive” with a “callous disregard” for Aubichon’s well-being when he was arrested in an alleyway on a snowy night in 2016.

“Grafton acted with complete and deliberate indifference towards the Plaintiff,” alleges a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday.

Grafton, along with two other RCMP constables, were criminally charged last month in connection with Aubichon’s arrest in Prince George, B.C., on Feb. 18, 2016. 

None of Aubichon’s allegations has been proven. No response to the notice of claim has been filed.

Takedown caught on backyard camera

Video of Aubichon’s arrest was captured by a backyard security camera. It shows the truck he was in boxed in by police, flood-lit by headlights of an RCMP cruiser.

The video then appears to show a man pulled from the truck by RCMP working with a police dog. After the man exits the truck, the dog lunges at him. An officer then appears to strike the man while he is on the ground.

WATCH: The arrest in Prince George, B.C., was captured on surveillance footage

Two men are stomped and kicked after police pull them from an allegedly stolen truck. One suspect’s legal team seeks an investigation. 2:48

In his lawsuit, Aubichon claims Grafton “encouraged” the dog to bite his arm. It also alleges Grafton allowed the dog to continue biting him once he was face-down on the ground.

“Grafton encouraged the dog to continue biting the plaintiff, even though Grafton could hear the Plaintiff screaming in agony and begging Grafton to stop the dog,” the claim reads.

“Grafton’s conduct … was physically and psychologically abusive and repetitive in the extreme.” 

The notice said Grafton kicked Aubichon in the stomach and hit him with a police baton while he was laying on the ground, “semi-conscious.”

Aubichon, then 22, claims to have suffered injuries to his face, leg, ribs, sternum, hand and the back of his head.

Aubichon claimed RCMP did not offer him medical assistance after taking him back to the RCMP detachment in Prince George. He said the incident caused physical, emotional and psychological trauma and left him “humiliated.”

Police have previously said the case involved two suspects who were evading arrest in a stolen truck.

The same day the video was made public, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. sent investigators to Prince George, at the request of the RCMP. 

Const. Joshua Grafton was charged in June with assault, assault with a weapon and obstruction of justice. Const. Wayne Connell and Const. Kyle Sharpe were charged with assault causing bodily harm.

The three officers are scheduled to appear in provincial court in Prince George on Aug. 12. As of June 8, the officers remained on active duty.

“The officers’ fitness to continue to be on active duty has been assessed. We are confident they can continue their duties in a manner that is safe and meets public expectation,” Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet told CBC News last month.

22Jul

Para-cyclist sets new record on 1,000-km ride, raises thousands for disabled athletes | CBC News

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Just over three days of gruelling cycling through B.C.’s Interior has earned para-cyclist Tristen Chernove a new record.

Chernove completed the BC Epic 1,000 on Tuesday — a 1,066-kilometre route that runs mostly along the Trans Canada Trail, from Fernie through the back trails of the Kootenays and Okanagan to Merritt. The route includes gravel forestry roads, mountain bike trails and paved roads. 

According to Chernove, the previous record for the route was three days, 15 hours and 22 minutes. He said he beat that record by about eight and a half hours.

“It’s great to be finished,” he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. 

“I had my first sleep in several days and a long one at that. So I’m feeling pretty good actually.”

Chernove pulled into Merritt just before noon on Tuesday. 

He posted updates on Facebook along the way, sharing both the highs and the lows of the adventure. 

“I’m not feeling great this morning,” he said on the second day, after only a few hours of sleep. 

“I’m hoping that now that the sun is up I can … find some energy and hopefully get a bit more positive spin going because it’s been slow, rough going and I’m hurting.”

He used strategies from mental strength coaches at Cycling Canada, such as asking himself if negative thoughts were helping him accomplish his goal, and if not, finding more productive, positive thoughts. 

In 2009, Chernove was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a degenerative but non-life threatening disease that affects his lower legs. He says it affects his peripheral nervous system, meaning he has very little use of his legs below the knees and his lower arms and hands are also impacted.

After discovering para-cycling, he became a triple Paralympic medallist in 2016 and won silver at the para-cycling track world championships in February.

Canadian cycling Tristen Chernove is a triple Paralympic medallist and won silver at the para-cycling track world championships in February. (Photo courtesy Canadian Paralympic Committee)

Aside from setting a new record, he also raised more than $30,000 for the Paralympic Foundation of Canada to help other para-athletes access equipment and training needed to participate in sport. 

“I am super happy and probably will try to continue doing something like this,” Chernove said. 

“Any other athletes with a disability out there … I would challenge you to think of things that matter for you and to get out there and raise some money as well. It’s a great feeling.”

20Jul

B.C. premier asks Trudeau to decriminalize drug possession as overdose deaths spike  | CBC News

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British Columbia’s premier is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take an “enormous step” to reduce stigma associated with illicit drug use by decriminalizing possession for personal use.

In a letter sent Monday to the prime minister, John Horgan says people in B.C. are experiencing unprecedented rates of overdose-related harms, including deaths, because of the toxic street drug supply.

The letter says criminal prohibitions are ineffective in deterring drug use and criminalization prevents people from seeking the help they need.

Horgan says he supports the recent call by Canada’s police chiefs to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use as the best way to battle addiction.

He says his ministers will reach out to their federal counterparts to take further steps.

The BC Coroners Service said last week that a record 175 people died in June of illicit-drug overdoses, surpassing the previous record of 171 deaths just a month before.

About 5,000 dead from overdose since 2016

A public health emergency was declared in 2016 and since then about 5,000 people in B.C. have died from illicit-drug overdoses, with many caused by the powerful opioid fentanyl.

“Behind these statistics lies a very personal tragedy,” Horgan says. “We are losing our family members and our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues. We must do more.”

Overdose continues to be the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and life expectancy at birth is declining in the province largely due to the overdose crisis, he says.

By changing the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize possession for personal use, “the federal government would take an enormous step to reduce the systemic stigma associated with illicit drug use and support people to access the services that they need to stay safe and start their path to recovery,” Horgan says.

The federal Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday it has expanded the accessibility of vital health and social services for people who use drugs.

“These actions include supporting the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, funding programs like drug treatment courts for those whose substance use contributes to their offending, supporting enhanced access to harm reduction services such as supervised consumption sites, access to pharmaceutical-grade medications, also known as safer supply, and an expanded range of treatment options,” it said.

“Our government remains committed to advancing evidence-based responses to help reverse the trend of opioid overdose deaths and other substance-related harms in Canada.”

Canadian police chiefs call for decriminalization

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has proposed increasing access to health care, treatment and social services in order to divert people away from the criminal justice system, which would apply to those in possession of a small amount of illicit drugs for personal consumption.

It also called for the creation of a national task force to research drug policy reform that looked at the law that covers simple possession.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer is president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. (CBC/Ken Leedham)

Association president and Vancouver Chief Const. Adam Palmer has said that the fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply have devastated communities and taken thousands of lives across Canada.

“We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focused approach that requires partnerships between police, health care and all levels of government.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has also called for the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of drugs, saying people use substances for many reasons.

“Nobody grows up thinking ‘I want to be addicted to substances, I want to have a substance use disorder, I want to have this controlling my life,”’ she said last week.

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