Ottawa

Ahead of federal election, group wants opioid crisis to be a priority

The mother of an overdose victim — and the national advocacy group she works with — want the federal government to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, and they're lobbying cities across Canada to support their efforts.

Moms Stop the Harm lobbies federal government on opioid crisis ahead of election

Christine Wingate lost her youngest son Shane on March 4, 2018 at the age of 29 to a carfentanil overdose. (Christine Wingate)

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  • Council approved a motion to support group's effort at its meeting of July 21, 2021.

Christine Wingate's son died from a carfentanil overdose in 2018 and since that day, she has dedicated her life to addressing the opioid crisis she believes is a national public health emergency.

"I don't want another family to go through the heart wrenching that we went through," said Wingate, whose 29-year-old son Shane turned to drugs to battle his severe anxiety and depression.

After her son died, Wingate joined Moms Stop the Harm as its Ontario director. Three years later — and with a looming federal election — she is pushing the federal government to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

For the past eight months, Moms Stop the Harm has reached out to municipalities across the country to formally support their efforts, which calls on the federal government to create an action plan that includes the decriminalization and the legal regulation of drugs. 

"We ramped up our efforts because we were seeing that the numbers, especially out in B.C., Alberta and northern Ontario, there was more than a 60 per cent increase in deaths," Wingate said. 

‘We’re losing a whole generation of loved ones’: Advocates push for national action on opioid crisis

2 months ago
1:10
Christine Wingate, who lost her son to an overdose in 2018 and now works with advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm, says the federal government could be doing much more to help curb the effects of the opioid crisis. 1:10

Overdose deaths in Ottawa doubled in 2020

Ottawa city councillor Jeff Leiper was asked to join the effort, and he tabled the motion to city council last Wednesday.

"If that helps to nudge the federal government into action, I am happy to see us take that step," Leiper said. 

Leiper says the opioid crisis is being felt in every community across Ottawa. In 2020, 123 people died from overdoses in Ottawa, which was about double the number from the previous year.

Anne Marie Hopkins from Ottawa Inner City Health says the past year has been the deadliest she has seen in her 12 years of work. 

"When COVID started last March, we started to see some of the worst overdoses we have ever seen since the beginning of this. It just keeps getting worse," said Hopkins.

Something has changed in the quality of the drug supply, she added. Factor that in with the isolation of the pandemic, and that is a deadly combination for many. 

Anne Marie Hopkins from Ottawa Inner City Health says a stronger drug supply and isolation are two reasons the past year has been the deadliest in her 12 years with the organization. (Hugo Belanger/CBC)

Hopkins says supervised injection sites are not enough, and additional government funding is needed to help connect people with addictions to the services they need, as well as to break the stigma surrounding drug addiction. 

"If we do not do all those things, we will not win. We will not beat this and we will just have more people that continue to die alone because they feel like there's nothing out there that can help them," Hopkins said.   

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