Local drug users and their supporters rallied Tuesday to call for the legalization of narcotics in response to the the ongoing overdose crisis’s staggering death toll.
Carrying signs and chanting “Safe supply saves lives,” around 50 people affiliated with the Drug War Survivors marched from a meeting at Abbotsford Community Services to the intersection of Essendene and West Railway, where they staged a rally.
Several people spoke about the toll the overdose crisis has taken over the past several years and the loss of loved ones in recent years. They called for more support from the City of Abbotsford, and access to a safe supply of drugs.
More than 130 people have died from illicit drug overdoses in Abbotsford since the start of 2016. Overdose deaths fell 23 per cent in 2018 from a record high in 2017 but were still more than 300 per cent above historical averages. Across B.C., illegal drug overdoses have killed more than 4,000 people since the start of 2016.
“We’re losing a lot of people, our people,” said a speaker named Russell, who declined to give his last name.
“These people, they are sitting here and they are yelling and screaming and just want to be heard,” he said. “Where can we go to be safe? Where can we go to live in harmony and know that we have people there to support us and get us through what is tough.”
He called for areas to be set aside for homeless people to camp while accessing necessary supports.
While dozens of units of social housing are slated for opening this spring in Abbotsford, Russell said he wasn’t convinced that they would remain open to the people who need them long-term.
“We are just going to keep yelling and telling everybody: ‘Listen to us,’” he said.