(WINNIPEG, MB - TREATY 1 AND HOMELAND OF THE RED RIVER METIS) - Yesterday (Wednesday, December 14, 2022) the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released data by jurisdiction on the overdose crisis in Canada. Manitoba data was not available. Nor was Manitoba data available when this data was last published in March of 2022. 

The Manitoba Health Coalition (MHC) is calling on on Mental Health Minister Sarah Guillemard to abandon her “fact-free” approach to life-saving harm reduction measures like supervised consumption sites (SCSs), accept the evidence that SCS facilities save lives and provide Manitobans with real data on the drug poisoning crisis in our province. The province’s web page dedicated to “Surveillance of Problematic Substance Use and Related Harms in Manitoba” has not been updated since 2019.

“The reason the minister is reduced to making up stories about visiting SCS facilities in Vancouver while the premier invents a history of SCS’s in California that never existed is because there is no real evidence for their decision to block life-saving measures in Manitoba,” said MHC Provincial Director Thomas LInner. “Having no good reasons to point to, they find it necessary to make up bad ones. This has to end. The Manitoba government must commit to providing up-to-date information on an ongoing basis and to ensuring that provincial data is included in all future PHAC publications on this crisis.”

Linner also pointed the minister to a recent study by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control of fatal overdoses in British Columbia between 2015 and 2018, as the toxic drug supply began to take hold in Canada. The study shows a much higher fatality rate per overdose event in rural areas and areas without access to supervised consumption sites. It also shows that the rate of overdose deaths drops significantly in close proximity to overdose prevention services in the City of Vancouver.

“This evidence has clear implications for Manitoba, which is in the grips of a toxic drug supply crisis and where no one who uses substances has access to a dedicated SCS,” said Linner. “These sites are there to save lives. No one can access treatment when they are dead. It is high time for the minister to accept the evidence, reverse course and take action to reduce the scale of death and chaos in our province.”