Activists on the front lines of B.C.’s overdose crisis say they’re not impressed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first-hand visit to the Downtown Eastside.
Sarah Blyth with the Overdose Prevention Society, the group that spearheaded the DTES pop-up injection site that has since been folded into the province’s response, says Ottawa needs to take the crisis more seriously.
“We’re just gonna continue to push for what we know is the right thing to do, and that’s to call it a national health crisis and to let everyone know across Canada that it’s a serious issue and that something serious needs to be done about it,” she says.
Blyth says she’s particularly disappointed with the PM’s refusal to take funding suggestions from front-line workers, or to offer federal cash for more radical programs like prescription heroin.
“In my opinion, it’s really important to spend it on the right, on the right things. Which would be getting people onto an opioid replacement medication so that they’re not having to buy drugs on the street and then overdose and then end up in ambulances, in the hospital and dying alone at home and all of those kinds of things.”
Trudeau toured the neighbourhood, considered ground zero of the opioid addiction crisis, yesterday morning to get a first-hand look and hold a roundtable discussion with leaders of front-line organizations and politicians.
Blyth says she would have liked to be a part of those discussions.
“We were disappointed that we weren’t there, we’re gonna keep trying to get the message out that it needs to be a national health crisis and that people are dying every day.”
Trudeau says his government is working with the province to come up with funding for more front-line and medical support.