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

The site of the former Rona store in Newton could be home to a park and civic amenities, in the 6900-block of King George Boulevard. (Photo: Google Street View)
Surrey buying 16 properties in Newton for parkland, civic amenities

Mayor Doug McCallum says project will be ‘fast-tracked’

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
White Rock dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Dancers perform at the Museum of Surrey during the opening of “Being Punjabi: Unfolding the Surrey Story” exhibit in October 2019. (File photo: Malin Jordan)
NDP says it will build a South Asian museum in Surrey

Media event held Tuesday at park in Newton

A past extreme weather response shelter set up for women inside Surrey’s Nightshift Street Ministries. (Photo: Chris Paul/nightshiftministries.org)
Homeless people in Surrey face ‘shocking and scary’ scenario this winter

Last winter there were nine Extreme Weather Response shelters in all of Surrey and White Rock. So far, during this pandemic, there are only five lined up for the coming winter

File photo
Surrey Mounties seeking dash-cam footage of Whalley road rage fight

Two men are alleged to have stabbed one another

Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)
COVID-19 co-operation a casualty of B.C.’s pandemic election

NDP’s Horgan weaponizes senior care, B.C. Liberal Wilkinson calls for ‘wartime economy’

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island residents warned to watch livestock, pets after bear kills llama

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

A injection kit is seen inside the newly opened Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continued to see the highest numbers of overdoses

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Rick Hansen Secondary School student died in hospital after suffering a medical incident in class on Monday. (File photo)
Abbotsford student dies after medical incident in class

Rick Hansen Secondary School offering additional counselling for students who require it

Investigators work at the Sagmoen farm in Silver Creek. - Image credit: Observer file photo.
Sex workers allegedly called to farm of Okanagan man convicted of assault, RCMP investigating

Curtis Sagmoen, convicted in relation to assault of sex trade workers, is prohibited from soliciting escorts

(Black Press Media files)
Early voters more likely to favour NDP, but overall B.C. election is tightening: poll

According to Elections BC, 383,477 people cast a ballot during advanced voting days

Most Read