I’m going to be out of commission for a couple of days and I need to say a few things about the report that was released last week from the Provincial Health Officer: “Stopping the Harm: decriminalizing people who use drugs”. First of all as I was trying to say on the radio it’s not about decriminalizing substances- it’s about decriminalizing people.
That means ending the ongoing exclusion of people who use drugs – but mostly low-income, racialized, mentally divergent people who use drugs – from the legal and civil norms conventional in mainstream society. It’s not about whether or not you’re charged with possession or trafficking or whatever.
It’s about the process of becoming criminal and how people who use drugs think of themselves as being outside of the the law : it punishes us, it does not protect us. But this report asserts that the law belongs to us too because we are also citizens and that’s the point of decriminalizing people.
What the report says is that policing and ongoing criminalization is preventing people from accessing health services, from accessing all kinds of Public Services, keeping us in poverty, making people vulnerable to overdose and endangering lives. Criminalization is undermining all of the health related activities that have been authorized through the initial intervention back in December 2016.
And secondly it’s not just another report by experts that goes into the air and things may be happening or maybe not. The report and its author, the Provincial Health Officer is authorized and empowered through the Public health act and this report has a particular force because of this state of emergency. It is not just another report.
“Stopping the Harm” is addressed to the government of British Columbia. from a senior officer appointed by government to the people’s elected representatives. This is a high-level intervention, not to an individual minister but to the executive of the government of the province, to the premier and the cabinet, and four ministers.
Consider the precedent. let’s go back and think about the last time we were at day 1114 of a public health emergency oh wait.
This is how to deal with an emergency. This is the most extreme intervention that provincial law allows. It has never been done before.
We need the government to consider these recommendations. It will be painful. This is a terrible situation to face directly. We can help them by being honest and brave, but they must do the same. We gotta talk, and this recommendation must be considered by the people elected to do so.
Silence is death. The legislature, the cabinet table – these are the places where this discussion must happen now. Let’s all take it seriously — as seriously as we possibly can.