Pubdate: Wed, 21 Feb 2018
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Charlie Fidelman
Page: A3


Protesters carrying signs saying "Injustice is fatal!" laid dozens of
white carnations next to a coffin on the steps of Montreal City Hall
Tuesday, each representing a life lost to a drugoverdose.

A coalition of community groups, crisis workers, activists and drug
users held a demonstration demanding the government repeal drug laws
that marginalize drug users.

They also held a moment of silence - joining several vigils held
simultaneously across Canada. The opioid crisis claimed nearly 3,000
lives in 2016, and the estimated death toll last year is pegged at
4,000 people.

"It's a sad fact that if we are gathered here, it's because there are
too many of us who have died," said Jean Francois Mary, director of a
provincial association that promotes drugusers' health, the
Association quebecoise pour la promotion de la sante des personnes
utilisatrices de drogues (AQPSUD). "And the number of deaths continue
to rise" everywhere, including Quebec.

"It's obvious that prohibition and the war on drugs is a bitter
failure," he said.

Yet governments don't seem to grasp the scale of what is happening or
understand why harm reduction measures taken so far have little
impact, Mary said.

In the United States alone, 60,000 people have died of
fentanyl-related drug overdoses, and Mexico's drug cartels are
responsible for killing thousands more, he noted.

Only true legalization will work, and that means a total absence of
penalties for drug consumption, possession or trafficking, Mary said.

It's the only approach that takes into account the reality of drug
consumption, he said.

More than 11,000 Canadians were arrested for possession of drugs last 
year, said group spokesperson Naoual Laaroussi, citing noted drug 
scholar, University of Victoria professor Susan Boyd, whose new book, 
Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada, traces 
Canada's Opium Act of 1908 to a piece of "racist-based legislation" used 
to target the Chinese population.

Aimed at all three levels of government, the group demanded the
decriminalization of all drugs; more harm reduction initiatives such
as safe injection sites; a community access program for the antidote
naloxone, and more treatment for opioid dependence.

The association is also seeking better support for community groups
that work with users.

Addicts are full citizens with human rights, said a woman, 25, who
gave only her first name as Ange.

"I am not a criminal. I'm a junkie - and proud of it," Ange said. "I
use drugs for personal reasons. I'm not sick and I'm not a victim."

"I'm here today because I risk my life every time I use. Like many of
my friends, we live each day in danger because of the government's war
on drugs."

Why are people who inject drugs marginalized while alcohol and tobacco
use is tolerated? she asked.

Drug users don't need "to be saved," she said, because essentially,
"what ruins our lives is criminalization."

What's needed is a change of culture so that drug users are not
prevented from getting housing, employment and health services, she
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