Mr. Chair, it is good to be here this evening to share some thoughts. I want to thank the members from all sides for discussing this very important issue, which is something that touches us here and touches Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We probably all know people, loved ones, who have been impacted through drugs or through overdosing and dying.
In British Columbia, where I am from, 2,700 people have died from COVID since the pandemic began. During that time, almost 3,700 have died through the opioid crisis. That is 1,000 more people than died from COVID. It is very serious. COVID is serious, but this is a very serious issue that is impacting Canadians. Since 2015, we have seen an almost 500% increase in drug-related deaths in British Columbia, from 400 to now approaching 2,000 people. It is a crisis, and opioids can be unforgiving. One hit and someone can be dead.
I know different people who have died. I think of a young woman, a beautiful lady, who had a child. She was very outgoing and friendly. She was a bridesmaid at my niece's wedding. The next I heard, she had died. She and her boyfriend had died. It can hit so quickly.
I have been to thousands of doors in the past couple of years, and I do not know how many people I have met who have lost loved ones through this.
On December 14, 2021, a Canadian Press story quoted Dr. Nel Wieman, who is a deputy chief medical officer with one of the B.C. health authorities. In the story, she says that deaths were declining in 2019, but that lockdowns forced people into isolation and more people used drugs alone. She said:
The unintended consequences of the public health measures related to the COVID pandemic has exacerbated the toxic drug events and deaths.
That is difficult. For example, in February, 2020, there were 78 deaths in British Columbia. Then in March, when COVID struck, we had 119 deaths. These were not COVID deaths. They were drug overdoses. In April, there were 128 and in May, there were 187. In July, there were 185.
People are dealing with mental health issues. These are big issues, and they are leading to people going to drugs. They are feeling isolated. I talked to the RCMP superintendent at the Ridge Meadows detachment, who said the number one issue is mental health. The opioid crisis goes hand in hand with mental health.
I am indigenous. I am Métis. It is very troubling to hear that indigenous people are five times more likely to overdose, and three times more likely to die from an overdose. It is a terrible situation.
Last spring, I presented a motion to look at a framework for addiction recovery. I think that is something we need to look at. What we are doing right now is not going in the right direction.
We need to do something more, and there has been a real lack in the area of investment into recovery programs.
I visited some recovery places in my constituency. I think of Tiffany. When I talked to her, she told me that after she had been an addict for 20 years, the recovery place had given her the tools she needed to love herself so she could go home and be the mother her children needed. Another young woman told me she had been addicted to drugs and supported her habit through prostitution. She told me that she would be dead if it was not for the help she was now receiving.
Joanna is the manager of Hannah House in my riding. She said that a lot of money is being spent helping people stay sick and addicted. She said it is heartbreaking, and that it is important, and essential, to keep people alive. There is no doubt about that, but how about finding a way for them to be truly able to live?
That is it. We want to keep people alive, but we want them to have a life. That is where recovery comes in. We need a lot more investment in this at the different levels. I asked Joanna why there was so little funding from the government, from her perspective. She said that abstinence-based recovery was not really politically correct. That was interesting.