British Columbia

Fentanyl crisis 'a bloodbath,' says Vancouver mayor

The City of Vancouver released new numbers on overdose deaths today that reflect a grim and escalating crisis.

City on grim track with 400 overdose deaths projected this year

Marchers carried a coffin to remember friends, family and community members during a procession to mark Overdose Awareness Day in Vancouver last August. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The City of Vancouver released new overdose numbers Friday that reflect a grim and escalating crisis.

So far this year, 170 lives have been lost in Vancouver because of opioids. That adds up to 400 deaths projected by year's end.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson pulled no punches in describing how dire the situation has become.

"The near-record number of drug overdose deaths in the fentanyl crisis is a bloodbath in all corners of Vancouver with no end in sight," Robertson said in a statement.

Robertson was in Ottawa, along with other municipal leaders, for the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference.

In his keynote address to the FCM, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reflected back on the steps the federal government has taken over the past year to combat the crisis, but admitted more could be done.

"We will not rest until we turn the tide," Trudeau said, "We're listening and we're here to work with you."

'A disaster that's unfolding'

Drug policy advocates say Vancouver's new overdose numbers are a wake-up call for emergency measures to be implemented.

"It's really a disaster that's unfolding. It's a public policy failure of a great extent," said Don MacPherson with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

MacPherson characterized the incremental expansion of treatment and harm reduction services as painfully slow.

"We need that emergency mentality and the creation of a workforce that can deliver these broadly-based interventions," he said. "And [then] we might begin to turn this around."

The City of Vancouver says that with a new provincial government expected in B.C., it will be closely watching a proposed new mental health and addiction strategy.

The city is looking for assurances the strategy comes with a "dedicated and transparent budget that provides immediate investment in addictions treatment and prevention programs."