Unceded Kwantlen & Katzie Territory (Maple Ridge), June 5th 2019
We are starting this grassroots, peer and volunteer-run overdose prevention site because with Anita Place Tent City shut down to all visitors and all but a handful of residents, local drug users have lost a space free from stigma and shame where they can safely use and access harm reduction supplies any time, day or night. We are starting this site so that no one finds themselves without a safe place to turn to. The opioid crisis is raging, here in Maple Ridge and all over the country, and we will not stand by while our friends and family continue to die preventable deaths.
Mayor Morden explained his shutdown of Anita Place Tent City by blaming homeless people for homelessness. Morden and his Ridgeilantes say that people are homeless because of their addictions. He put forward a “Maple Ridge model” of housing that insists on abstinence-first. This language and the policies that accompany it not only trap people in homelessness, they also stigmatize drug users.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden’s closure of the community controlled overdose prevention site at Anita Place is built on anti-homeless, anti-drug user rhetoric and policies. In our eyes that makes him a murderer. We are starting this site to put an end to the stigma and shame that drug users needlessly suffer.
Last year the Provincial Minister of Health Judy Darcy issued a Ministerial Order in response to the massive overdose death crisis saying that the Province of British Columbia will support any “community partner” that opens an overdose prevention site. Fraser Health is supposed to open and operate an Overdose Prevention Site in Maple Ridge. After Mayor Morden closed the unfunded and community controlled site that existed in Anita Place, why did Fraser Health not open an OPS? The inaction of the Province and Fraser Health are already responsible for one death in Maple Ridge.
The Ridge Meadows Overdose Prevention Site is an OPS open to all members of the community. The myth that all homeless people are drug addicts is convenient for politicians who want to enforce the status quo, but we know that the reality is that people who use drugs come from all walks of life. Those of us who lived at Anita Place witnessed how many housed people came to the tent city because they knew that if they overdosed, we would be there to bring them back.
We are demanding that the Province immediately open a permanent OPS in Maple Ridge. We demand an end to the disastrous war on drugs, an end to stigmatizing “abstinence-first” housing models, the decriminalization of drug use, and access to safe supply. Until Fraser Health does the absolute minimum and opens a permanent, 24-hour OPS in Maple Ridge, this community controlled OPS will remain open.
The Maple Ridge government’s displacement and stigma, the Provincial government’s inaction, and the Federal government’s criminalization are organizing the mass killings of drug users. We will not allow one more death in our community.
For a report on the launch of the OPS, and the response from government and police, see the article BC NDP orders RCMP to shut down Ridge Meadows Overdose Prevention Site, published June 8, 2019 in The Volcano newspaper.