Victoria, BC June 23, 2018
We acknowledge in gratitude that our gathering place is within the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Songhees, the Esquimalt and the Wsanec nations.
Before we begin I would like to bring your attention to the Petition to the House of Commons to address the opioid crisis that we urge you to sign – wave your clipboards volunteers. John and Jenifer Hedican of Comox lost their beloved son Ryan to a fentanyl poisoning. They like us are not only grief stricken, they are angry and passionate. Thank you, John and Jennifer, for this petition and its trajectory.
We are here to demand that our government and all governments of Canada turn their attention to the fact that there have been over 7000 deaths in 4 years and many before that. These people died of the preventable cause of using illicit, unregulated, and toxic substances. We demand the government place the highest priority on ending the war on drugs, which is a war on the people who use drugs.
And specifically, today we ask government to DECRIMINALIZE the people who possess and use illicit drugs. They are not criminals. they are simply using drugs.
Drug use must be treated as a social and health-care issue rather than a criminal matter.
Many people are addicted to drugs - they take drugs out of a great need, a need that most of cannot fathom unless we’ve been there. Some are seeking a respite from the harshness of their lives. Some are kids looking for a new experience. It is not for the government to literally judge an individual based on what they want or need to take into their own bodies. They are not criminals.
And to see them as such, to treat them as such, then to deny them the medicine they need once they are dumped into the criminal justice system is inhumane. It is not befitting of the country of Canada
In comparison, am I arrested for possessing and drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes? No! Why not? Because prohibition on alcohol didn’t work in the early 20th century, the government decided that these potentially very harmful substances are legal, and legal to possess and use as unwisely as we like.
Much of the world has realized that decriminalization necessary to mitigate the problem:
- The Global Commission on Drug Policy, the World Health Organization and both the Canadian and American public health associations support the decriminalization of possessing small quantities of currently illegal psychoactive substances.
- The countries of Portugal, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, the Netherlands, the Czech republic have all decriminalized drugs. They have shown that such policies free up police and the entire criminal justice system for more serious crimes. These policies send people with addictions toward treatment rather than jail.
Framing drug use as a criminal justice issue rather than one of health has simply served to fuel the very lucrative black market in fentanyl and other non-pharmaceutical, divert resources from law enforcement and marginalize those who are already vulnerable
People who use these drugs are my kid and your kid, your brother, your aunt, your partner and maybe you. They are people who live next door, the people beside you in the parking lot. They are not criminals. They may carry trauma, they may live in poverty, they may have mental health challenges, they may have simply become caught by addiction through a doctor’s prescription.
Today we are working on one ask. Decriminalize the possession of and use of illicitly obtained drugs for personal use. It is not a war on drugs that we see, it is a war on the people who use drugs.
Let the government, Mr. Trudeau, see that lives will be improved, tax dollars will be saved and put to use in health care, treatment, education, shelters, harm reduction measures. Mr. Trudeau, your party as well as the NDP and the Green Party wants to decriminalize drugs. What IS the problem here?
Moms Stop the Harm primarily works to support and keep alive people who use drugs. We want them to be alive, we want every kid who experiments with drugs to live through the experience, we want people who are addicted to have a chance to get to treatment and recovery.
We advocate for drug policies that keep users alive and safe. They must not be criminalized, sent to jail, and not treated. They need help not jail. Decriminalize the possession and consumption of all illicit drugs.
Decriminalize those who possess and use illicit drugs NOW!
Leslie McBain, co-founder Moms Stop The Harm, bereaved mother of Jordan Miller