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

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of possibly decades-old airplane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Mark Strahl is speaking in the House of Commons on Oct. 20, 2020, on a Conservative motion to create a special committee to look into the WE charity scandal. The speech will be posted live on his Facebook page. (Facebook image)
VIDEO: Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl to speak on WE scandal today

Prime Minister has said Conservative motion for ethics committee could trigger election

Plow equipment clearing the roads on Dec. 13, 2016 focused on Priority 1 and 2 roads. (City of Chilliwack)
Dozens of Chilliwack roads could get upgraded for snow removal

But side streets mostly remain as priority 4, rarely if ever plowed based on resources available

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Rosedale man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after purchasing electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Officers with the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team were at a White Rock home Tuesday (Oct. 20) to assist Vancouver Police Department with execution of a search warrant. (Contributed photo)
ERT, VPD response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

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)
B.C. 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

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

Most Read