Protesters marched to the Ministry of Health building during a rally for action on B.C.’s overdose crisis in April 2019. This year advocates are focusing on decriminalization after one of the deadliest drug overdose months in B.C. history. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria rally calls for drug decriminalization

Groups coming together to combat B.C.’s overdose crisis after deadliest month in province’s history

The public is encouraged to ‘mask up, rage, grieve and love’ at a rally to decriminalize illicit drugs in downtown Victoria Friday afternoon.

The rally, organized by groups including Moms Stop the Harm and South Island Community Overdose Response Network, is on June 26, a global day of action in the #SupportDontPunish campaign, aimed at ending the war on drugs and mobilizing for sustainable alternatives.

Jenny Howard, a member of both groups, lost her 24-year-old son to an overdose in 2016. She’s since become an advocate for change, pushing for policies to help end the overdose crisis.

Howard said the Friday rally is building on words from B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who called on the provincial government to immediately decriminalize people who possessed controlled substance for personal use following the month of May, when B.C. saw a record 170 overdose deaths, the highest ever for the province.

READ ALSO: B.C. records highest ever number of fatal overdoses in May with 170 deaths

“Having people go through the revolving door of the justice system is not getting at the root of what is a public health problem,” Howard said. “This is really a health issue and as a health issue, it is a human rights issue that is not being properly addressed.”

Howard noted that the overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency four years ago, and while an incredible amount of work has been done, May overdose rates proved that the problem is not even close to solved.

“It hasn’t slowed the rate of death, we know it’s not working,” Howard said. “We have to look at other measures to address this.”

The rally will be held outside the Ministry of Health building at 1515 Blanshard St. on Friday, June 26 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

READ ALSO: ‘The system has fallen apart:’ Victoria woman’s son died a day after being accepted to treatment centre


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