British Columbia·Point of View

Why we all have to be part of fixing the fentanyl crisis

"When I hear the sad song of sirens that ring out in my neighbourhood every day – all day long – I am dreading the story I will hear -- whether this person has made it or not."

First Nations activist writes a sad siren call to action

Morrison dreads the sad song of ambulance sirens that ring out through her Downtown Eastside neighbourhood every day. (Shutterstock)

I am an Anishinaabe woman who resides in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. I have volunteered and worked in this very diverse community for 15 years and will continue to do so.

I acknowledge that I can live, work and play on these unceded territories belonging to the Coast Salish Peoples. Having respect for the people whose territory I live on is a must. 

And writing this call to action, it is a must too. 

Sad song of sirens

When I hear the sad song of sirens that ring out in my neighbourhood every day – all day long – I am dreading the story I will hear -- whether this person has made it or not.

This emergency crisis of overdoses and death has taken its toll here, in this city that I love so much. It is inconceivable. It's so hard to understand why this problem can't be helped or solved. Why isn't what we are doing working?

The lights of emergency vehicles – those beacons firing off the urgency of their journey – aren't what I want to see on every block. 

War on the poor must end

I believe that the war on the poor has a lot to do with this. The laws need to change, but that is a pipe dream. Instead, we as a society and residents of the DTES need to ally together to create positive changes in the here and now. 

I know in writing this call to action, it is not going to change much. But for me, it's a start. 

Tracey Morrison is calling on society and DTES residents to come together and create positive change as a way to deal with the ongoing fentanyl crisis. (Tracey Morrison)

First, I am going to send this plea to everyone I know: all organizations and their varying levels of stakeholders, directors, colleagues and friends. I want us all to be an active part of the solution, not the problem. 

From naloxone to bannock

I am proud to have taken part in hosting a naloxone and overdose response public training event with several other agencies, including the city, health officials and the western aboriginal harm reduction society. Over 230 people were trained that day.

I also joined in on the December public forum at city hall that led to the addition of targeted funding to help with the huge strain of the fentanyl crisis on city police and fire services. 

I also do a lot of my own outreach on the street through selling my bannock, usually in the evenings. A warm piece of bannock will do you good. 

"How can I help?"

I want to also acknowledge all the unsung heroes in our community who are doing their part.

 And yet, the sirens still call. More must be done. So I ask you to question yourself, "How can I help?" 

We need everyone, not just the people who reside in the DTES, but in all of greater Vancouver, the province of B.C. and right across Canada. All levels of government, all non-profits, health authorities, the Vancouver Police Department and housing agencies of all kinds must get on board. 

That is all I truly want this year, for us to ally together. Stop the drug war. Stop the war on the poor.  We must all work together and help our people who are some of the most criminalized, stigmatized and marginalized living here in the DTES. 

We have the right to live. Thank you. Miigwech. 

Tracey Morrison is president of the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society.

The Fentanyl Fix is a week long series exploring potential solutions to B.C.'s opioid overdose crisis