Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette met at a fire hall in downtown Vancouver on Feb. 22, 2020, with firefighters and police officers as well as officials including Mayor Kennedy Stewart. (The Canadian Press photo)

Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette met at a fire hall in downtown Vancouver on Feb. 22, 2020, with firefighters and police officers as well as officials including Mayor Kennedy Stewart. (The Canadian Press photo)

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Canada’s Governor General visited an overdose prevention site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Saturday after meeting with first responders on the front lines of substance-use issues fuelled by the opioid fentanyl.

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as officials including Mayor Kennedy Stewart, British Columbia’s Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and Dr. Patricia Daly, the chief medical health officer for the Vancouver Coastal Health authority.

Payette said she’s learned that the overdose crisis that has caused thousands of deaths across the country is complicated and will require a co-ordinated response including health and mental-health services in order to find solutions and “diminish hardship.”

She said it wasn’t her first visit to the drug-riddled neighbourhood and that she’s had a longtime interest in addiction issues.

“Before I was Governor General of Canada I served on the board of Drug Free Kids Canada,” Payette said of the non-profit organization that aims to help parents in particular deal with youth addiction and prevention.

“My reason to be here today is just to highlight and thank the folks that do this every day,” she said of firefighters and police officers who respond to multiple 911 calls daily involving people who have overdosed.

After her visit to the fire hall, Payette walked a few blocks with first responders and officials to the Molson Overdose Prevention Site, where people inject their own drugs and other drug users trained to supervise them ensure they get help if they overdose.

The site opened in December 2016 under an order from the provincial health minister, seven months after the B.C. government declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency because of a record number of overdose deaths, mostly due to fentanyl.

READ MORE: Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Coco Culbertson, senior manager of programs at PHS Community Services Society, which runs Molson, said Payette’s visit may help to reduce the stigma of drug use.

“She was incredibly empathetic and understanding of how these places offer humanity and dignity to people that often don’t have a lot of agency in society,” Culbertson said.

Molson is around the corner from Insite, North America’s first facility to offer drug users a place to walk in off the street to inject their own drugs under the watchful eye of a nurse.

Insite opened in 2003 to curb overdose deaths and spiralling HIV rates when the federal Liberals were in power and under an exemption to Canada’s drug laws but the facility became the focus of heated court battles with the election of the Conservative government before a unanimous 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2011 kept the site open.

The success of Insite has spawned similar sites across the country including two others in British Columbia, which is also home to 30 overdose prevention sites in B.C., including the one Payette visited.

Jonathan Gormick, spokesman for Vancouver Fire Rescue Services, said the governor general’s meeting with first responders is meaningful because she’s not a politician.

“I think when she gathers evidence and she advocates for a position it’s taken with more validity because it’s not based on getting votes, it’s not based on towing a party line or saying something just to oppose an opposition party,” Gormick said. “Hopefully it will influence some change and be supported across party lines.”

Health Canada says about 14,000 people died in the country of opioid-related overdoses between January 2016 and June 2019 and thousands more were hospitalized.

Later on Saturday, Payette was to meet with five teenage skiers who were hailed as heroes last year for helping to save an eight-year-old boy who was dangling from a chair lift on Grouse Mountain. The teens grabbed a piece of out-of-bounds netting to help cushion the boy’s fall after convincing him to jump.

“I’m the mom of a teenager so I know how important it is to say, ‘Hey, good job,’” Payette said.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

opioid crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

Grizzly.
Morning Start: Humans might be able to hibernate like bears

Your morning start for Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
104 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

IH is reporting the new numbers since Friday, Nov. 20

Penticton RCMP are looking to speak to this woman who allegedly spat on an employee at Skaha Liquor Store as well as dropping his phone on the ground. (Facebook)
WATCH: Unmasked Penticton woman allegedly spits on employee, drops his phone

Penticton RCMP are looking for the woman who was refused service for not wearing a mask

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Rezoning of Summerland Motel will affect Trout Creek residents

Council made decision despite protests from residents

The Animal Food Bank is asking for donations as the pandemic continues and the holidays approach. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Okanagan Animal Food Bank in need of donations as pandemic continues

The Animal Food Bank provides food for any domestic pet in need

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Kelowna International Airport. ���Image: Capital News file
Two more Kelowna flights exposed to COVID-19

At least seven Kelowna flights have been exposed to COVID-19 since Oct. 21

Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)
Miscarriage of justice before B.C. teen’s 1983 guilty plea in girl’s murder: lawyer

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

A concept rendering of the proposed Costco at the corner of Baron, Leckie and Springfield roads. (WSP Global)
Contentious Kelowna Costco relocation moved to public hearing

Costco looking to move less than a kilometre away to build a larger store with more parking, gas bar

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest B.C. premier tells Okanagan girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Most Read