9,400 deaths in 6 years: B.C. marks solemn anniversary of opioid crisis

Several rallies are planned in British Columbia Thursday as the province marks the sixth year since the toxic drug crisis was declared a public health emergency.

Demonstrators are demanding more government action to combat a crisis that has seen the deaths of 9,410 people since it began in 2016.

A group called Moms Stop the Harm is urging the public to demand an action plan and scaled up safe supply options, with rallies Thursday and Friday in Vancouver, Victoria, Maple Ridge and Kelowna.

Data released earlier this week on February deaths showed there have been 17 months in a row in which more than 150 people have died of suspected illicit drug overdose.

It was another record-breaking month, with 174 lives lost. Six of those people were under the age of 19.

The premier, minister of mental health and addictions and provincial health officer marked the anniversary of the crisis in a joint statement released Thursday morning.

“Today our hearts are filled with sorrow,” John Horgan, Sheila Malcolmson and Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“This is a sombre reminder that the work underway is crucial to fighting a rising ride of need, saving lives and ending this crisis that disproportionately affects men.”

Over the last six years, the street drug supply has become more toxic, they said, increasing at a rate that is outpacing services funded by the government to save lives.

“As the crisis continues to evolve, so too must our response.”

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