On Thursday, March 17, Parkdale Queen West CHC was pleased to host the team of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, MP Arif Virani and MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith–it was truly whirlwind event!
Thank you to Nanky, Bronwen, Matt, Gab, Board member Rozita and our colleagues from South Riverdale CHC, and from BC Kilala Lelum Health Centre (Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative) and AVI Health and Community Services, for a powerful and seemingly impactful case for urgent action to address the increasingly toxic drug supply that results in on average 22 overdose deaths in this country each day; and right here in Ontario an average of 331 suspected drug-related death each month. Thanks as well to Maureen, Tara, Bojan, Bronwyn, Pixley, and all today who made the logistics planning worthy of praise from the PM team.
We made a strong case for housing as a foundation resource in the range of our harm reduction strategies. Our teams spoke with deep insight from their work that we cannot prescribe our way out of this overdose crisis, and that a decriminalization strategy alone will not address the deaths from a toxic drug supply. Hence, regulated supply and a range of options that meets the varied needs of people who use drugs must be the answer. We were heartened when the Prime Minister reflected on his deeper learning from the conversation about why decriminalization must be twinned with regulated supply.
There was an appreciation for the fact that Naloxone remains an important antidote, but with the increasing toxins in the street level drugs, its responsiveness is not universal to all substances in the illicit market. We made a passionate case for national standards and accountabilities that would see consistent responses across the provinces and territories and called for accountabilities in how Federal health transfer payments are utilized. Making the case that here in Ontario, lifesaving drugs available in other provinces have been removed from the drug formulary and that there is no commitment to fund SOS. We insisted that it would be unethical not to continue funding SOS programs, while discussions continue about local regional support.
We made the case for a broad public health response to what is an urgent public health crisis, noting that now this crisis spans some 5+ years. We need the same political will and urgent public health actions that saw possible with COVID-19.
I am so honoured to work alongside this team not daunted in speaking truth to power.
See but a few pics from this most eventful day.