Ottawa must act fast on safe drug supply as deaths from tainted drugs continue daily: advocates

“What is our safety compared to the lives of thousands of people a year who currently die from overdoses?” The Vancouver defender says he agrees to distribute drugs illegally if necessary.

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Central East residents at high risk for overdoses now have Vancouver’s support for uncontaminated drugs, but the federal government has the final say on whether they will have access to a legal supply.

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Coun. Jean Swanson’s motion to support a request from the Drug User Liberation Front, to run North America’s first compassion club to give members access to uncontaminated heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, was approved by the council of Vancouver last week.

Drug User Liberation Front co-founders Jeremy Kalicum and Eris Nyx filed a request for a federal exemption to Canada’s Controlled Substances and Drugs Act on August 31 and requested the support of the city.

While awaiting the federal decision, the Liberation Front is considering the possibility of buying more illicit drugs from the dark web to distribute in the DTES.

“We are in a race against time,” said Nyx, a harm reduction activist and DTES resident. “We cannot sit idly by watching our community being wiped out by a supply of poisoned drugs.”

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In July, members of the organization tested, labeled and released free 3.5 gram drug samples outside a Vancouver police building. Northor as a result there were arrests or overdoses.

Cpl. Tania Visintin said Vancouver police enforcement priorities target those who “produce and traffic harmful drugs” rather than users, although the force “does not support safe supply bought on the dark web.”

Kalicum, an addiction researcher and former drug inspector for the BC Substance Use Center, admitted that he is afraid of being arrested for buying illicit drugs.

“But wWhat is our safety compared to the lives of thousands of people a year who currently die from overdoses? ” he said.

BC is on track to eclipse the 2020 record of 1,734 fatal overdoses. As of July 31, there were 1,204 deaths in British Columbia this year due to drug toxicity, including extreme concentrations of fentanyl and carfentanil mixed with illegal drugs, discovered by post mortem testing.

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The Liberation Front has given the federal government until October 15 to make a decision, Kalicum said.

“If they deny us, we will have to take legal action. We will not stop “.

Swanson compared the group’s harm reduction model to supervised injection sites, which were only granted a federal exemption to legally operate in Canada in 2003.

A man prepares to inject heroin at the Insite supervised injection clinic in Vancouver, BC, on Wednesday, May 11, 2011.
A man prepares to inject heroin at the Insite supervised injection clinic in Vancouver, BC, on Wednesday, May 11, 2011.

Dan Small, founder of Insite, North America’s first supervised injection site, is familiar with the exemption process.

Insite was not initially approved by the city or Vancouver Coastal Health. Both have pledged their support for the Liberation Front compassion club proposal.

“We thought they were going to arrest us,” Small said. “We created a non-profit shadow society called Health Quest, in the event the government withdrew funds from our BC Housing shelter.”

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When a fourth waiver was denied to continue operating Insite in 2006, the founders went to court. “In 2011, we won,” Small said. “We show that just one program, like a safe injection site or compassion club, can move Vancouver forward and save lives.”

Kalicum said he believes “similar progress” can be made toward creating a compassion club.

Currently, there are more than 40 supervised injection sites legally operating in Canadian cities.

“People needa secure supply solution with a flow barrier on the path to systemic change, and they need it now, ”said Kalicum.

Although the British Columbia Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions did not address whether it supports the Liberation Front proposal, it said in an email that “separating people from the supply of poisoned illicit drugs is an essential health sector intervention” that prevents overdoses.

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The province is in Phase 1 of implementing its prescribed safer supply policy, which was announced in July.

“We are taking steps throughout the care process, from harm reduction and prevention to treatment and recovery. This includes decriminalization, access to a more secure supply, ”the ministry said.


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