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)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)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)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)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 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 crowd rallies for action on overdose crisis
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)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.

opioid addictionopioid crisisopioids

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)
Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment

Formal investigation, survey and training launched at museum

Laura Campbell was one of eight people to receive the Community Living BC Widening Our World award in 2020. (Courtesy of Laura Campbell)
Victoria woman earns provincial award for work with differently abled adults

Widening our World awards recognize community, inclusivity building

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District’s wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point. (Photo courtesy CRD)
PHOTOS: Check out Greater Victoria’s new wastewater treatment facilities

Long-awaited project has been up and running since late 2020

Staff Sgt. Darrell Underwood and Ian Gibbs, coordinator of volunteers for the Saanich Police Department, stand in front of the new Saanich Community Safety Office at Uptown Shopping Centre. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich police call on volunteers for new community safety team

Community Safety Office to open spring 2021 at Uptown Shopping Centre

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

The shirts sell for $45, with 30 per cent of proceeds from each sale going to Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver. (Madame Premier/Sarah Elder-Chamanara)
Canadian company launches ‘hysterical’ T-Shirt to combat health officials’ use of word

A partnership with Tamara Taggart will see women broadcast the word on a T-shirt or tote bag

ICBC has seen savings on crash and injury claims in the COVID-19 pandemic, with traffic on B.C. roads reduced. (Penticton Western News)
ICBC opens online calculator for rate savings starting in May

Bypassing courts expected to save 20% on average

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
16% boom predicted for B.C. real estate sales in 2021: experts

Along with sales, the average price of homes is also predicted to rise, by nearly 8 percent

The trial of Harry Richardson began Monday at the Nelson courthouse. File photo
Trial of man accused of shooting RCMP officer in West Kootenay in 2019 begins

Harry Richardson is facing five charges in a Nelson courtroom

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

In this May 23, 2012, file photo, an approximately 2-year-old female cougar runs away from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife trap after being released northeast of Arlington, Wash. A cougar has attacked and severely mauled a man in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Mulligan/The Daily Herald via AP
Cougar euthanized in B.C. after severely mauling a man north of Vancouver

Whistler RCMP officers were first on the scene and shot and killed a cougar prowling nearby

Dex needs surgery after breaking his paw in the panic caused by an apartment fire. (Submitted)
Dog needs surgery after escaping burning North Island building

Fundraiser started for veterinarian costs after Dex breaks paw dropping from upper floor apartment

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Most Read