BCNU Renews Calls for Action as Province Marks Anniversary of Toxic Drug Crisis

April 14, 2023
Union continues to advocate on behalf of patients and families

BC declared the toxic drug crisis a public health emergency seven years ago. On this sombre anniversary, BCNU recognizes the devastating impact the province’s toxic drug crisis continues to have on communities around BC.

Throughout the public health crisis, BCNU has advocated for patients, families and loved ones, as well as nurses and health-care workers at the point of care. Yet, for so many in the health-care sector, the crisis continues to be one of the most challenging public health issues we face, and one that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

BCNU’s Advocacy

During last year’s National Nursing Week, BCNU invited politicians, first responders and members of the public to attend an evening vigil to mourn the loss of life BC has witnessed through the crisis. And last July, President Aman Grewal made an in-person submission to the provincial legislature’s Select Standing Committee on Health regarding the crisis.

On the seventh anniversary of the toxic dug crisis, BCNU joined health-care and policy leaders, from the Coroners Service to the Association of Chiefs of Police to health-care providers and community advocates – in renewing a call for sustained action in four broad areas:

  1. Providing ongoing harm reduction measures such as the widespread provision of naloxone.
  2. Increasing access to safe supply with prescribed pharmaceutical alternatives.

  3. Building more provincial mental health treatment and recovery services.

  4. Ending the criminalization of people who use drugs and moving from punishing and blaming towards supporting and healing.

Learn More

BCNU has documented the terrible burden of death on account of the toxic drug supply and the actions taken to confront it in a number of Update Magazine articles. This includes interviews with community health nurses, BC’s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe and community advocates like Moms Stop the Harm.

Members are encouraged to revisit BCNU’s Update Magazine’s archives, including stories on the toxic drug crisis that can be found here.


More than 11,000 people have died following the declaration of the public health emergency on April 14, 2016.

Since then, legislators and public health officials have made significant efforts to address the crisis.

In 2016 the province rapidly expanded safe consumption sites around BC and removed all restrictions on the administration of emergency-use life-saving naloxone. A year later, the province established a mental health and addictions ministry, and since then has invested in more treatment and recovery services. 

In 2020 public health orders expanded nurses’ scope of practice, authorizing them to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs. And this January, the province announced that adults in BC would no longer be subject to criminal charges for the personal possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs. It is one small step that’s needed to help remove the stigma and blame around drug use.

Despite these efforts, almost seven people a day continue to die from BC’s poisoned drug supply – with 2,300 lives lost in 2022 alone.

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