A rally and march in support of a “real” safe supply of drugs is set to take place in Vancouver Tuesday afternoon.
According to organizers, the march will begin at 2 pm at the offices of Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) at 380 East Hastings Street.
From there, the march will proceed west on Hastings, north on Columbia, east on Cordova, then south on Dunlevy Avenue to end near the intersection of Hastings Street and Dunlevy Avenue.
After the march, a rally is planned to take place at the corner of Dunlevy and Hastings with various speakers and presentations.
According to organizers, the event is being held because BC “has reached an unprecedented and grim milestone: 170 people dead from overdose caused by an ever-more toxic drug supply due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
As well, COVID-19 has closed international borders and “limited the provision of support services vital for the survival of people who use drugs,” they add. “Politicians in British Columbia have failed to protect the health and safety of their constituents, leading to a record number of deaths.”
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Earlier this month, the BC Coroners Service responded to the findings of a new report that showed that the province recorded its highest-ever one-month total of illicit drug deaths in May of this year.
In total, there were 170 deaths linked to illicit drug toxicity, the report said.
This number surpasses the previous high of 161 reported in December of 2016. British Columbia has recorded three consecutive months with over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths.
There have been 554 illicit drug deaths to date in 2020 in the province.
In her response to the latest figures, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe noted that they come “four years after the declaration of a public health emergency” regarding illicit drug overdose deaths in BC.
“Despite the many collective efforts directed at this crisis, the toxic drug supply continues to take the lives of our family members, friends, and colleagues,” she said. “We still know that illicit drug toxicity death rates in BC remain the highest for any jurisdiction in Canada, and every region in BC has been impacted.”
Lapointe added that “were it not for the dedicated efforts taken to date, the death toll would be higher.”
As such, “we must continue to build on further access to safe supply in BC and for a regulated, evidence-based, supportive treatment and recovery system as important pillars in preventing future deaths.”