Victoria crowd rallies for action on overdose crisis

Protestors marched from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building in Victoria on Tuesday for the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Jan Mahoney holds a photo of her son, Michael, who died of an overdose in December at just 21-years-old. She and husband Glen want to see more action on the overdose crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Piotr Burek and Kim Toombs of Aids Vancouver Island (AVI) joined the downtown march on Tuesday for the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
A number of people addressed the crowd outside the Ministry of Health building on Tuesday, expressing loss, pain and frustration as a result of the nation-wide overdose crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria city councillor Laurel Collins joined protestors calling for action on the overdose crisis Tuesday. Collins was one of many councillors who joined the group in the march from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building on 1515 Blanshard Street. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria city councillor Sarah Potts said the overdose crisis needs to become a federal election issue. She addressed the crowd of protestors gathered outside the Ministry of Health building on Tuesday as part of the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Glen and Jan Mahoney pose with an image of their son Michael, who died of an overdose in December after struggling with opioid addiction since age 13. The couple joined protestors Tuesday as they marched from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building downtown as part of the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Glen Mahoney wants to know how many people have to die from overdoses before something changes.

He and his wife Jan joined dozens of people raising a rally cry in downtown Victoria on Tuesday as they called for action on the overdose crisis.

Glen and Jan’s son, Michael, was prescribed opioids for pain at just 13-years-old. He spent the rest of his short life battling an addiction to the substance until he died of an overdose less than five months ago. He was 21 years old.

In their grief, the Victoria couple say something must change.

“Doing the same thing over and over that doesn’t work, it’s the definition of insanity,” said Jan. “I’ve been an advocate for safe supply for many years. It’s just ridiculous how we’ve criminalized people because… humans have been using substances for a millennium, so I don’t think prohibition is the answer.”

Glen said stigma is the only explanation for the ongoing crisis.

“These people are ill. And they go untreated,” he said.

The protesters, which included members of the Society of Living Illicit Drug Users (SOLID), Aids Vancouver Island (AVI), Moms Stop the Harm as well as other advocates and harm reduction workers, marched from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building at 1515 Blanshard Street, calling for safe supply, compassionate policy change and decriminalization of single-use drugs.

“Safe supply can be done,” said Victoria-based harm reduction nurse Marilou Gagnon, in an address to the crowd. “It is cost effective…it saves lives.”

The crowd responded with hoots of support, banging pots and blowing whistles.

“We know what to do, we have the solution,” she added, saying that governments have managed public health emergencies without knowing the cause or the cure.

“We can take matters into our own hands.”

According to the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs (CAPUD), safe supply refers to legal and regulated drugs that perform as a substitute for illicit drugs – helping to re-conceptualize safe use practices and ensure users don’t ingest contaminants like fentanyl.

A safer drug supply motion brought forward by the City of Victoria was approved at an AVICC meeting on Saturday, but Coun. Sarah Potts said the overdose crisis needs to become a federal election issue too.

“I want to call on governments to do more and do better,” she said to the crowd.

Coun. Laurel Collins, Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, Coun. Marianne Alto and Coun. Jeremy Loveday joined the group as well.

Tuesday’s march was part of a National Day of Action put on by CAPUD that comes with five federal demands: to declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency, to make safe supply the fifth pillar of the Canadian drugs and substances strategy, to make heroin an accessible drug, to decriminalize people who use drugs and to provide emergency funding for overdose prevention sites.

Across B.C., similar events were held in Powell River, Prince George, Duncan and Vancouver.

Just Posted

Prolific offender found sleeping in Oak Bay resident’s car

Of 106 calls to 911 last week, eight were abandoned

RCMP confirm foul play in death of 60-year-old Metchosin man

Police believe crime an isolated incident

Researchers head out from Sidney to explore Canada’s largest underwater volcano

The Explorer Seamount is as large as Greater Vancouver and full of previously undiscovered species

RCMP identify Sidney bank robbery suspect, believe he is still on Vancouver Island

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

BC Ferries’ top boss helps clean Willows Beach

Old shoe, men’s underpants and too many cigarette butts on Willows

VIDEO: Dashcam video captures moment Victoria cyclist struck

Police seeking cyclist captured in video

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Rare white ravens spotted again in mid-Island

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in Coombs area

Most Read