Strife of Brian

This week’s cover feature, by arts and culture editor Beth Schellenberg, examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Manitoba’s overdose crisis. But longtime readers of The Uniter will recognize that this crisis didn’t start with COVID.

Since Brian Pallister’s election in 2016, The Uniter has been examining how the premier’s approach to healthcare and drug policy has wreaked havoc on all Manitobans, especially those who use drugs.

Whether it’s his opposition to safe-injection sites, his moralizing tone or his emphasis on policing over access to care, Pallister has taken every possible opportunity to further criminalize some of the most vulnerable Manitobans. It’s upsetting, but not surprising. It’s entirely in line with his overarching approach to governance, which almost always substitutes compassion with cruelty.

His and his government’s callous positions on COVID aid have severely affected Manitobans at risk of overdosing, leaving community organizations to pick up the slack. But his disastrous handling of the pandemic has only worsened the deep and long-running problems he’s created.

It was in November 2019, months before the pandemic started, that Uniter comments editor Haley Pauls examined the difficulty in accessing local detox care. In April 2019, I penned an op-ed about how Pallister’s closures of clinics and emergency rooms coincided with not just an increase in overdoses, but also an outbreak of syphilis and a drastic decrease in the quality of prenatal and neonatal care. 

Has Pallister’s government been collecting data on which communities, demographics or neighbourhoods are impacted by cuts? In April 2019, the answer to that question was “no.”

Eighteen months later, things have only gotten worse.

Published in Volume 75, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 8, 2020)

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