Skip to content

PHOTOS: Overdoses, healthcare crises spur Victoria protests at premiers’ meeting

Groups gathered outside the Fairmont Empress in side-by-side calls for action

Every single day Melanie Cunningham dreads she’ll get a knock on the door or a phone call in the middle of the night with the news that her son has overdosed on fentanyl.

It’s why, as she fastened a sign to fencing outside Victoria’s Fairmont Empress hotel on Tuesday morning, the mother was joined by other members of Moms Stop the Harm.

“I know several moms who have lost their adult children because of fentanyl poisoning, and I could be next, and that makes me sad and angry,” Cunningham said. “(My son is) an addict, he didn’t choose this life, however, it is his life until he gets the right kind of help.”

That help could be determined by Canada’s premiers who were inside the Empress for health-care-dominated Council of the Federation meetings.

“We want to be out front and centre and let them know that we’re not going away, we want them to make changes,” Cunningham said. “We want all of Canada to take action.”

Knowing the next use could be the one that kills her son means the mother’s life is an endless nightmare, so she’s pleading for leaders to ensure access to the safe supply.

READ: B.C. approved to decriminalize possession of small amounts of street drugs as deaths soar

READ: Ottawa’s share of health-care funding to be top concern at premiers’ meeting in B.C.

Cunningham’s son’s vicious cycle of being in and out of detox and treatment programs with no success doesn’t come as a surprise to Ben Goerner, a former counsellor of 30 years who worked in such programs.

“I can tell you that over half of the people that go for treatment the first time come out and relapse, and they’re going to relapse on a toxic substance,” he said. “That’s the problem, we need to get rid of the toxicity.”

So while treatment can be one tool in the life-saving arsenal, Goerner, another Moms Stop the Harm campaigner, showed up on Tuesday to “get the government to provide a safer supply to stem the tide of death that’s happening.”

Even though holding 2.5 grams of street drugs will be decriminalized in B.C. next January, he wanted to keep pressure on the premiers and push for greater legal personal possession amounts.

Camille Currie, founder of B.C. Health Care Matters, led a separate group of sign-waving ralliers outside where the premiers were meeting.

“We’re here today to make our message very clear, that every resident in B.C deserves timely access to a family doctor and we do not have that in this province,” she said, adding that four deaths a day could be linked back to the lacking primary care options.

The doctor shortage in communities across the province is exacerbating problems in the overall health-care system, she said, pointing to emergency room wait times, backlogged cancer and cardiac treatments and a lack of prenatal care.

“This issue is dire, there is no other word for it, and we need action now.”

READ: Indigenous leaders and Canada’s premiers meet in Greater Victoria Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
Read more