"It would be expected that Vancouver’s municipal government, which formally recognizes the scope of the crisis, would put more effort into harm reduction in what is already the most heavily policed neighbourhood in British Columbia.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President
Vancouver (06 Feb. 2016) — With the epidemic of overdoses increasing, the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) published a statement outlining its position. In it, the BCGEU/NUPGE states that believes that a new community policing centre is the wrong approach to providing safe and stable community supports in the Downtown East Side.
But, recently, Vancouver city council voted to do that with funding dedicated to addressing the fentanyl crisis. Despite increased funding, law enforcement alone has not been able to stem the tide of overdoses in the community.
Reallocating resources from harm reduction to law enforcement wrong-headed
“Putting scarce funds set aside for responding to the fentanyl crisis into enforcement instead of harm reduction does a disservice to front-line workers and to the community at large,” said Stephanie Smith, President of the BCGEU/NUPGE. “It would be expected that Vancouver’s municipal government, which formally recognizes the scope of the crisis, would put more effort into harm reduction in what is already the most heavily policed neighbourhood in British Columbia.”
The statement continues saying that these funds are desperately needed for more shelters, supervised injection sites, and training for front-line workers who are, on the whole, bearing an enormous emotional and physical load during this crisis. It is not clear that the city has committed to an equal investment on the harm reduction side of the issue, which so far has been the most effective method when it comes to saving lives and supporting the community.
Front-line addiction and mental health services need funding to continue saving lives
Community social services workers and front-line workers in mental health and addiction services have been deeply affected by the crisis. They are working above their call of duty to help save lives, sometimes several times per day, without proper support or counselling from government.
The BCGEU/NUPGE represents 72,000 workers in B.C., including over 10,000 in community social services and many more in mental health and addictions.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE