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Bill 234–The Drug Related Death Bereavement Day Act

On April 28, Bill 234, to have a day dedicated to recognize those who are hurting from the death of a a loved one or a friend who has died from a drug related death.  My comments on this bill are below. 

Bill 234–The Drug‑Related Death Bereavement Day Act 


Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Drug-related deaths are disturbing, tragic, sad.

      We are discussing today making the Sunday before Mother's Day a drug-related bereavement day. It's im­por­tant to have this day. It's im­por­tant to recog­nize the many who are hurting from the death of a loved one, a friend, who has died. We need to be able to share these stories of those who died, for from this sharing, we can get relief; we can get a wider under­standing of what has happened and what led to the situation, and, as a result, we can dedicate ourselves as MLAs to preventing future deaths.

      It is also a time to tell the truth, as we see it, of the inadequacy of the current prov­incial approach to helping those with substance use addictions.

      The fact that deaths from–drug-related deaths are preventable is clear. It is not easy. It is tough. It is maybe some of the most difficult things that there are in health care, in social work, in psychological help. But it can be done, and it needs to be done better.

      We need to have a system where people can go when they need help and get that help. It's not enough to have a system which is only there part of the time. Too many people, when they have recog­nized that they need help and gone for help, it has not been there at that parti­cular moment at that parti­cular time.

      We also need a system which is seamless in moving people from the initial search for help to an effective approach to addressing the con­di­tion, the addiction.

      We have to recog­nize, as has been in­creasingly done, that addiction is too often a chronic con­di­tion, not some­thing that we can solve imme­diately, totally. Even those who are able to end their addiction to substance use, to the drugs, and come out of the other side and do well, for many it is a continuing, lifelong battle, a lifelong time to be aware of the pitfalls, of the problems; a lifelong time to continue to have some level of support.

      But, certainly, the approach that has been taken for many years, which is a 21- or 20-date–day treatment approach, has not worked and is now recog­nized as not being ap­pro­priate or working anymore; that individuals need not only to go through a phase of treatment and help, but also, beyond that, they need a period when they're in sup­port­ive housing, where they can continue to be away from the situation, the circum­stances, the environ­ment where they have had problems with their addiction in the past.

      And there are places that are doing this now, including at St. Boniface Street Links and Morberg House, where they have often found ways to house and support people for prolonged periods of time until they can get back on their feet and, in some cases, to support people not once, not twice, not three times, but time and time again, where it comes through, where it's needed.

      And what is amazing to me is the in­cred­ible work that has been done by people have been through a substance use con­di­tion and have come out the other side and have been really amazing and im­por­tant contributors to our society. They have often developed an empathy and an under­standing which is badly needed, an under­standing of what they have been through in terms of the stigma and how we can move beyond that.

 And it is amazing, the con­tri­bu­tions that so many have made once they have been helped. It is one of the reasons why this concept of stigmatizing people is just wrong, because each person is a human being and each person has potential. And we have to do what we can to help people reach their potential.

      And some people are able to reach an extra­ordin­ary level of potential, even continuing to use drugs, but the ones who manage to overcome the use of drugs and get on to a life which is free of drug use, it is in­cred­ible, and we need to tell some of those stories too, because those stories can be im­por­tant in helping us understand how people have succeeded, how people have achieved, and the con­tri­bu­tions that they have made.

      It is a time to reflect on what has happened in the last two years when we've had this extra­ordin­ary increase in drug-related deaths in Manitoba, and it is time to rework how we approach addictions and do it in a much better way than we have been doing it.

      There have been many lessons learned, and it's time that we learned from those lessons and made the changes that are needed to prevent the tragedies, the terrible things and the disasters that have happened in the past.

      It is not an easy way, but it is a possible way, and, working together, I believe we can achieve some­thing much better than we have at the moment. And that is one of the reasons that I'm here, as an elected MLA, and I stay here, because I see the potential possi­bility to do much better.

      With those words, I look forward to having an annual day to recog­nize what has happened in the past, and the individual tragedies and to share the stories and hope we can use this as a place where we can learn and move on, and move on to a better place, in terms of preventing the problems that have so plagued so many in Manitoba for so long.

      Thank you.


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