October 5, 2023
UBCIC Demands Drastic Increase to Harm Reduction, Housing and Treatment for Drug Users in Response to BC’s New Legislation on Public Consumption of Drugs
(xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/ Vancouver, B.C. – October 5, 2023) Earlier today, the governing NDP party tabled an Act on the Consumption of Illegal Substances in the legislature that bans public substance use in a variety of community spaces, including all parks and beaches. UBCIC calls on the government to instead address the interlinked, spiraling crises of housing, affordability, addiction, and mental health in a holistic, systems-wide, and compassionate manner.
The legislation effectively recriminalizes the most marginalized people who use drugs (PWUD) – those who are unhoused and do not have access to harm reduction services – and sends a stigmatizing message that PWUD must hide out of sight, even if that means death. First Nations people are chronically and drastically overrepresented in housing insecurity, homelessness, and fatal overdoses, dying at 5.9 times the rate of other BC residents, and will be disproportionately harmed by this violent legislation. Despite this, the legislation was not co-developed with title and rights holders and is in clear violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Over seven years after declaring the overdose crisis a public health emergency, the NDP is prioritizing the comfort of the majority over the survival of PWUD, rather than addressing the root causes of the crisis.
People across BC are struggling to survive the housing and affordability crises, while harm reduction services, such as safe consumption sites, are dangerously inaccessible outside of major urban centres, leaving few options for PWUD. This legislation sanctions the displacement of the most marginalized members of our communities, as many encampments – places where the unhoused create a semblance of stability – are within banned areas, such as parks and sidewalks, preventing people from using with others in their community and increasing the likelihood of fatal overdose. While the government states that this legislation will provide the police a tool to move people along, the question remains, without housing or services, where should they go?
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President, 604-290-6083
Chief Marilyn Slett, Secretary-Treasurer, 250-957-7721
UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
For more information, please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca