Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.
The year 2021 became British Columbia's deadliest year for overdose deaths, with 1,782 people losing their lives and two months' worth of data still to come. In October alone, there were 201 deaths, which roughly equates to six and a half a day, but behind each and every number are beloved sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and the families and loved ones they leave behind.
I want to take this opportunity to honour two parents in my riding by telling the stories of their late children.
First is the story of Annie and her son Alexander.
Alexander was an athletic and creative soul who loved his family deeply, especially his daughter Bella, but he had experienced several traumatic events in his life, including the murder of his best friend. As a result, he struggled with anxiety, depression and PTSD. After a car accident, he was prescribed oxycodone by a doctor, but his struggle with mental health left him vulnerable to addiction, and he became dependent on it. Despite this, Alex managed to stop using by himself in 2016 and was able to maintain his sobriety until the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, Alex died on January 18, 2021, from carfentanil and benzodiazepine poisoning just days before his 29th birthday. Alex died alone on the floor of his locked bathroom, trying to hide his addiction. His death left a hole in his family, as his mother Annie lost her only son and as eight-year-old Bella lost her father.
Equally tragic is the story of Clint who was a kind and successful young man who had a loving family and was just about to move in with his girlfriend. Clint had managed to score his dream job and went out with his friend to celebrate. His friend brought cocaine, which Clint had never used before, but because he was celebrating, he decided to take some. Later that night, he died. It turned out that the cocaine had been cut with fentanyl, and Clint overdosed on a drug he did not even know he was taking.
The loss of Alex and Clint are unimaginable tragedies, passing in the prime of their lives, leaving behind loving families and promising futures, but these stories are all too common in British Columbia, where it is hard to find someone who is more than a couple of degrees removed from such a tragedy.
Since the loss of her son, Annie has been driven to make sure that others do not go through the same thing that she and her family have been through. Through her work with Moms Stop The Harm, she is fighting to make sure that we end the stigma around addiction and ensure that those who need it can get help and do not take tainted drugs.
I want to thank Annie and Clint's father Al for their advocacy and tell them that we are listening, but we have more work to do so that those who are struggling with addiction can get the help they need.
When simple drug use no longer needs to be concealed out of fear of criminal prosecution, government programs that provide for safer supply will be possible, and we can create the space for treatment to rehabilitate those who are suffering from addiction.
This method has shown success in communities across my riding and has overwhelming community support. In February 2021, an overdose prevention site opened in Squamish and in Sechelt. The Sunshine Coast's first sanctioned safe consumption site was established in July of 2020. There, trained staff provides support, which includes access to naloxone, counselling, overdose response and education, drug-checking and detox treatment options. These facilities work, as despite record-high opioid deaths, not a single person has died under a supervised consumption or overdose prevention site in B.C.
We need to support these sites that keep people safe, particularly in communities where indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by the opioid crisis. We need to build on the $200-million investment in substance use prevention and treatment services for first nations and the $116-million investment through budget 2021 to fund projects through the substance use and addictions program, but we also need to ensure that those who are suffering from addiction are able to get the help they need without fearing prosecution. Addiction must be recognized for the health issue that it is and not be treated as a criminal issue.
Our government has proposed taking steps in this direction with Bill C-5, which would require police and prosecutors to first consider diverting people to treatment programs and support services instead of charging and prosecuting them.
Preventing avoidable deaths needs to be the fundamental priority for our country. This starts with safe supply projects, including overdose prevention clinics and the financial tools with the substance use and addictions program. We have to work with jurisdictions when they are ready, but we also need to work directly with physicians to give them the tools they need to prescribe life-saving alternatives.
We will continue to work towards ending this crisis so that nobody else has to suffer the loss that the families of Alex and Clint have endured.