STIGMA IS MURDER: WE DEMAND ACTION FROM FRASER HEALTH

A statement by Maple Ridge’s homeless and low-income drug user activists.

Last week on June 6, a group of homeless and low-income drug users, activists, and supporters started an unsanctioned overdose prevention site on provincially-owned land in Maple Ridge. During the thirty minutes that the Ridge Meadows OPS was open to the public, three people used it. But we were still forced to shut it down when BC Housing requested that the RCMP take actions to stop us. We gave Fraser Health until Monday, June 10th to take immediate actions to open an OPS, and here we are, waiting for the Province to stop capitulating to local anti-poor, anti-drug user bigotry and help us save the lives of our friends and family. How many more of us will die before the Province steps in?

On the same day that we started our OPS, a report came out demonstrating that harm reduction is incredibly effective at saving lives, and without harm reduction services, the overdose rate in BC would be 2.5 times higher than what it is now. In 2016, a Ministerial Order recognized the value of harm reduction and mandated that the Province open overdose prevention sites. And yet, against its own Order and evidence in support of harm reduction, the Province chose to shut down a desperately needed OPS in Maple Ridge. We believe the Province did so in order to capitulate to the exceptionally hateful local climate. Rather than take the lead in fighting not only overdose deaths, BC Housing backed down, prioritizing the opinions of people who believe that all drug users should die, and that harm reduction is “enabling.”

Places like Maple Ridge need harm reduction the most, because the stigma that anti-harm reduction rhetoric and policies generate lead to isolation, vulnerability, shame, and death. With a right-wing populist mayor consolidating anti-poor, anti-drug user sentiments, an OPS is needed in Maple Ridge more than ever. Today, we demand a meeting between Fraser Health and harm reduction activists from the low income and homeless drug-using community in Maple Ridge.

We demand:

1) Fraser Health must immediately identify a property in Maple Ridge where the community can operate a pop-up overdose prevention site and provide support for the operation of that OPS.

2) Fraser Health must immediately announce their plans for a permanent supervised consumption site in Maple Ridge. A pop-up Ridge Meadows OPS must stay open until a permanent supervised consumption site opens.

We are the experts on what’s needed in Maple Ridge—not the bigots that want us to quietly die. We know our community, our needs, and the challenges we face not just around accessing safe using spaces and harm reduction supplies, but confronting incredible hostility from Mayor Morden and his Ridgelantes.

We will not allow the Province’s negligence to push us into alleyways, ravines, and unsupervised rooms to use in. The stigma perpetuated by a lack of harm reduction services and Mike Morden’s attacks on poor communities is murder. We need an OPS now. Not tomorrow, and not the day after, and we refuse to back down.