On Tuesday, March 14, 2023, the Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness (the Hon. Janice Morley-Lecomte) introduced Bill 33 (The Addictions Services Act). This was quickly seen as a cynical and transparent attempt to punish service providers like Sunshine House (who operate a Mobile Overdose Prevention Site under a federal exemption) and to strangle current and future efforts to expand life-saving harm reduction services, including supervised consumption sites.
The community immediately pushed back with a joint statement by MHC, Sunshine House, Manitoba Harm Reduction Network, Main Street Project, Moms Stop the Harm, Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin and more.
We are getting the message out -but there's much more to do. Please consider registering to speak against Bill 33 at the Manitoba Legislature (scroll down to Bill 33 here and follow the prompts).
Here's what people are saying:
"[I]n demanding a second application process, the Tories appear to be trying to bury prospective facilities in layers upon layers, and months upon months, of bureaucratic obstruction, during which the government can claim it supports safe consumption." - Dan Lett, Winnipeg Free Press
"[B]y its actions, our provincial government has shown an unwillingness to put the public good ahead of its own ideology." - Matt Goertzen, Brandon Sun
"If there is a single issue on which Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government has clung relentlessly to a position that seems rooted solely in ideology — despite being on the wrong side of expert information, public opinion and plain old common sense — surely it’s the question of how best to address this province’s expanding drug-addiction crisis." Winnipeg Free Press Editorial Board
"This government brings forward a bill that will do nothing whatsoever to ensure that Manitobans struggling with addictions right now get the support that they need, that folks who maybe could be prevented from having an overdose, get that care and are put in contact with the right people who can help them with that." - Manitoba NDP Health Critic Uzoma Asagwara
“We were a bit blindsided by it. Not a bit – we were absolutely blindsided by it. Upon reviewing the bill, we in the community are pretty sure the bill is going to threaten our current MOPS with Sunshine House, as well as any other sites that have a federal exemption.” - Shohan Illsley, executive director of the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network
"This kind of bill just creates a divide between government and community, and really shows they're out of touch with what's happening on the ground (. . .) We were quite surprised they would put forth a bill without any consultation or connection to groups doing this work in the community." - Jamil Mahmood, executive director of the Main Street Project
"This bill looks entirely like it's meant to eliminate overdose prevention sites ( . . .) Our focus is not tracking outcomes. Our focus is saving lives." - Levi Foy, executive director of Sunshine House
"Seven years into a drug poisoning crisis which has taken so many lives in Manitoba, this government’s most consequential act is to try to shut down the community actually working to address this crisis. No threat so potent as that of a good example." - Thomas Linner, provincial director of the Manitoba Health Coalition
"[I]t looks like this bill is going to make it more challenging and more difficult for organizations to open safe consumption sites. We should be taking away barriers rather than building more." - Solange Machado, coordinator, Brandon Harm Reduction Network
Before the introduction of Bill 33, the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives - Manitoba published this analysis of the PC government's approach to supervised consumption sites and harm reduction services by MHC provincial director Thomas Linner - check it out for useful context on how we got to where we are.
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