Pubdate: Wed, 21 Feb 2018
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Metro Canada
Author: Jesse Winter
Page: 3


Demonstrators demand change to federal drug policies

Around 200 drug users and advocates took to Vancouver's streets
Tuesday, demanding changes to the federal government's drug policies.

In a national day of action, co-ordinated with cities across Canada,
demonstrators from the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs
(CAPUD), the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and other
groups marched through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside from Victory
Square to the B.C. courts building at Hornby and Smithe St.

"We're going to lose 4,000 people this year (to overdoses), probably
more," said CAPUD president Jordan Westfall. "Where does it end?"

The overarching demand of the demonstrators is immediate full
decriminalization of all illicit drugs without which, Westfall said,
more people will continue to die.

"It would allow people to use drugs more safely without fear of arrest
and detention," said Caitlin Shane, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society
who specializes in drug policy.

"It's a move to ensure that people can rely on much-needed harm
reduction and health services without criminal repercussions," she

While decriminalization and ultimately full legalization and
regulation of drugs is the long-term objective, Westfall said one of
his organization's most immediate concerns is an end to the practice
of "red-zoning," which are pre-trial orders barring people charged
with drug offenses from being in certain areas of the city.

"It (the red zone) can be something like a few blocks around Insite,"
Westfall said, referring to Vancouver's original supervised injection
facility. "Sometimes people are barred from areas where there are
health services, or even where they live."

Being barred from those areas can force drug users to consume in
unsafe places and can sometimes render them homeless, Westfall said,
both factors that contribute to the risks of an overdose.

Unlike the complications of decriminalization, ending redzoning is a
relatively simple approach the province could take quickly. At last
year's national day of action, demonstrators demanded an increase in
the availability of prescription heroin and hydromophone. Eight months
later the province said it was moving to do just that.

In October, the provincial government approved new guidelines setting
out how injectable prescription drugs - such as heroin and
hydromorphone - can be used by physicians to treat people with
particularly entrenched addictions.

Mental health and addictions minister Judy Darcy said at the time that
B.C. is the first jurisdiction in North America to develop such
guidelines. And in the midst of the province's overdose crisis it's a
necessary step, she added.

"We need to provide every possible option to save peoples' lives,"
Darcy said. "Four people a day are dying.

"It remains the worst public health emergency we've had in decades.
The evidence shows that these drugs can make a difference. They're
prescription drugs and they will save lives."

Shane, from Pivot, sees that as an important and progressive step
forward, but one that doesn't go far enough.

"Something the government should have done long ago is make it easier
for proponents to apply to operate supervised consumption sites," Shane 

"It's unrealistic to expect these organizations to get through the
tremendous application process when they're already struggling to save
lives on a daily basis," she said.
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