Dan Jack photo First responders prepare to transport an apparent overdose victim in downtown Parksville Saturday morning, April 22, 2017.

Advocates urge B.C. to withdraw proposed bill allowing youth to be held after overdoses

Bill 22 would create more harm than good argues the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and others

Proposed changes to B.C.’s Mental Health Act that would create a new form of detention and involuntary health care for youth who have experienced an overdose must be scrapped, according to advocates.

In an online press conference Monday morning (July 27) the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Health Justice and BC Civil Liberties Association condemned Bill 22 and warned if pushed through, it would create more harm than good for youth amid the ongoing opioid crisis that has claimed thousands of lives.

President of BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, Hawkfeather Peterson said pervasive stigma remains common for substance users.

Read More: Overdoses ‘sadly normalized’ in British Columbia: addictions minister

“When I see the government backsliding into discriminatory policy such as this it really just feels like all the hard work we’ve done to affirm ourselves has been completely negated,” Peterson said.

Based on a successful pilot program at BC Children’s Hospital, Bill 22 is currently on pause noted B.C. Minister of Addictions Judy Darcy who said government will “take this time to talk to more people about the work that we were already thinking about doing with our partners on safeguards in regulation to protect young people’s rights.”

Whether it be trauma associated with family violence or being in care, instability within their life or dislocation from family, community and culture, youth have stated their main reason for using substances is to numb their emotional pain, said BC Representative for Children and Youth, Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, who acknowledged the increasing toxicity of the province’s illicit drug supply.

Read More: Parallel crises: How COVID-19 exacerbated B.C.’s drug overdose emergency

A report in March by the Representative for Children and Youth found there were no intensive community day treatment programs in the province and just six youth specific intensive care management programs in B.C. which did not apply to the Fraser or Northern region. Charlesworth added there were seven residential detox programs in the province offering a total of 27 youth specific beds, six of which had wait lists. There are also wait lists as long as three months for five of the six publicly funded community residential treatment programs.

Laura Johnson with Health Justice said a fundamental defect of B.C’s Mental Health Act is there no protections against restraints and being isolated, and that Bill 22 extends this “horrific regime” and does not protect youth from the prospect of being restrained while undergoing involuntary treatment.

Read More: Isolation, drug toxicity lead to spike in First Nations overdose deaths amid pandemic: FNHA

Speaking on behalf of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Kukpi (chief) Judy Wilson of Neskonlith Indian Band said Bill 22 puts First Nations who have been working with the First Nations Health Authority to reform the health care for their people back many steps.

“We need to put those wraparound supports and services and not cut them off from their family and community, not detain them and punish them. It’s a health need. It’s not a criminalization where because they’re on substances or they have a family breakdown or crisis or mental health that they’re incarcerated or put into a system that’s foreign to us,” Wilson said, noting resulting high incarceration, suicide and mortality rates.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC governmentFirst Nationsmental healthoverdose

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Delta police investigating shots fired in Tsawwassen

No injuries reported after police called to Parkrove Crescent Sunday afternoon (Aug. 9)

Delta artist John Horton named to Order of British Columbia

Honour for significant contributions made to the appreciation and safety of B.C.’s coastal history

Surrey’s Boze Corn Maze set to open with one big ‘50’ in the design

This year’s maze has some ‘social-distancing bubbles’ built into it, says farmer Mike Bose

Former White Rock mayor, MP shares community connections via YouTube

Gordie Hogg aims to highlight those who’ve impacted South Surrey, White Rock

South Surrey boy’s lemonade stand raises $670 for baby Lucy on BC Day weekend

Zach Young, 6, wanted to help with purchase of Vancouver infant’s costly drug ‘to help her get better’

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Fraser Valley Bandits fall to Edmonton in CEBL final

Bandits lose 90-73 to Stingers in Sunday’s Summer Series final

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Most Read