HANDS OFF OUR HEALTHCARE: Kevin Falcon and Recovery Industry Flee Scrutiny from Grieving Families 

Mainlander Editorial Collective is publishing the following Press Release from Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Surrey Union of Drug Users, and Moms Stop the Harm. 

Kevin Falcon and Recovery Industry Flee Scrutiny from Grieving Families


xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, sḵwx̱wú7mesh & səlilwətaɬ lands – Harm reduction advocates and concerned community members from across the Lower Mainland gathered at Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre to speak out against the PROSPER Conference, an event organized by the US-based Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions. The Foundation changed the event’s venue to Richmond’s Westin Wall Centre at the last minute.

Advocates state that the conference was organized to promote the funneling of public funds to enrich the for-profit recovery industry in British Columbia. The province’s treatment and recovery (TAR) industry – which was deregulated by Kevin Falcon in 2002 – has drawn growing criticism for its links to BC United, BC Conservatives, and other right-wing organizations, as well as for acting as a gateway to privatizing health services in BC, Alberta, and Canada altogether.

As workers who have been coerced into treatment, we have come face-to-face with the privatized treatment industry. These forced referrals have nothing to do with workplace safety or providing quality health care to workers, and everything to do with lining the pockets of those set to profit off of a privatized health service. Our medical fees and WorkSafe dollars are being poured into a private sector with no measured outcomes, instead of helping the people it should!”  – Byron Wood, Workers for Ethical Substance Use Policy 

「良知用藥政策工人團」(Workers for Ethical Substance Use Policy)的拜倫·伍德(Byron Wood)稱:「作為被迫接受治療的工人,我們面對了私有化的治療行業。這些強制轉診的個案,與工作場所安全或者為工人提供優質醫療保健毫無關係,而是與填滿那些企圖從私有化醫療服務中獲利的人的腰包有關。我們的醫療費用和工作安全資金原本應該用來幫助該幫助的人,卻被投入到沒有衡量標準的私營領域!」

Press conference speakers urged that British Columbians should be alarmed that a US-based foundation responsible for America’s disastrous and discredited war on drugs has taken its grip on Canadian public health policy. BC United leader Kevin Falcon and BC Conservative leader John Rustad are featured as keynote speakers for the event.

“Why does an American policy advisor have his hands in British Columbia’s health policy? Kevin Sabet, the man behind today’s PROSPER Conference, was the architect behind a brutal drug war that spanned three US administrations – twenty years where the mass incarceration of minorities in America, mostly for petty drug charges, reached its peak. Why are Kevin Falcon and John Rustad shaking hands with a man with such an abysmal record of locking up the poor?”
– Trevor Tablotney, Curtis’ Dream and Richmond resident

The conference was originally set to be held in Downtown Vancouver, but the event’s organizers announced a last-minute change of venue to the Westin Wall Centre in Richmond – another luxury hotel owned by developer Peter Wall – yesterday afternoon. Notably, not all guests were informed of the change: those publicly associated with harm reduction did not receive the notice. This morning, pre-registered ticket holders from Moms Stop the Harm attempted to attend the conference in Richmond nonetheless.

Earlier this year, Moms Stop the Harm BC petitioned the province’s Attorney General to investigate the TAR industry for its misuse of public funds and widespread allegations of abuse and exploitation across treatment sites. BC’s Death Review Panels have twice recommended greater oversight over BC’s TAR industry since the drug toxicity emergency was declared, but little has been done by the government to do so.

Residents across the Lower Mainland are uniting to fight back against the growing and organized moral panic around harm reduction, which has led to the re-criminalization of petty drug possession in BC. 

Outside the Sheraton Wall Centre, members of the Surrey Union of Drug Users joined the call for proper oversight and evaluation of BCs private recovery programs, while also demanding a wide spectrum of safe supply options to keep communities alive, investments in non-market housing, and publicly-funded withdrawal management services (medical detox) be made on-demand.

“The lack of a safety net for people who relapse in abstinence-based recovery directly leads to death. Any legitimate conversation about recovery must recognize that relapse is common, and it’s the toxic illicit drug supply that kills people, not addiction.”
– Gina Egilson, Surrey Union of Drug Users Board of Directors

素里用藥者聯盟董事吉娜·埃吉爾森(Gina Egilson)稱「徹底戒掉的康復模式中,藥癮復發的人沒有安全網,是直接導致他們的死亡。」她又說「進行任何關於康復的對話都必須認識到,藥癮復發很常見,導致人死的是有毒的非法藥物供應,而不是藥癮本身。」

Punjabi translation available here

Cover photo by Can Pac Swire