Living in the stone age

This week’s cover feature, by comments editor Paul Carruthers, looks at Winnipeg’s overdose and drug-toxicity crisis. Specifically, it discusses the need for safe-consumption sites and the provincial and municipal governments’ long-standing hostility toward these life-saving services.

It’s an issue we’ve been covering in The Uniter for years. Our online archives only go back so far, but without digging through the bound volumes of yellowing newsprint in our office, I can confidently say we’ve been banging this drum since at least 2005.

This isn’t even my first time writing an editorial note on this topic. In October 2020, I wrote about then-premier Brian Pallister’s utter refusal to consider implementing safe-consumption sites, despite plenty of evidence they reduce overdoses and overall crime. Based on Paul’s story, it seems like their stance hasn’t changed.

This is, perhaps, the eternal frustration of life in Winnipeg. If you live here long enough and read the news diligently, you see the repeating cycle of crises, calls for change, government inaction and an ultimate lack of change. That’s not to say there’s been no social progress whatsoever. But it’s been 12 years since Canada’s first safe-injection site opened in Vancouver, and it feels like we’re still wallowing in 20th century ideas around drug use and harm reduction.

It’s essential that community organizations, impacted individuals and communities and especially young Manitobans continue to put the necessary pressure on governments to make real progress and stop living in the stone age of harm reduction.

Published in Volume 77, Number 09 of The Uniter (November 10, 2022)

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