Speech from Mona Woodward: These wicked policies are by design and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

Photo of END PROHIBITION banner by Aaron Bailey for The Mainlander

It’s a great honour today to speak with you, here on the lands of the Coast Salish people. I haven’t been in the public realm in quite a few years.

My name is Sparkling Fast River Rising Woman and my colonial name is Mona Woodward. Today, I am here speaking as a member of the Surrey Union of Drug Users. I am a sixties scoop survivor.

I am Cree, Lakota-Sioux and Siouxda, coming from the Kawacatoose Nation.

I am an Indigenous woman like many other women who left the reserve to come to the city to escape poverty and violence and for a better life for my children.

I really believe the personal is political in regard to my life and the work that I’ve been involved with for many years, violence against women.

I learnt when my sister was murdered in Alberta, that the three levels of government don’t give a shit about Indigenous women, children or anyone.

As we look at any of the statistics from any spectrum from diabetes to violence against women, to overrepresentation of Indigenous men and women in the prison system. When we look at our youth and the suicides that have been overwhelming in some of the Northern communities.

All of this stems directly from colonialism. Shame.

In fact, they tried to make Indian people extinct. We aren’t supposed to be here. I am not supposed to be here. But I am here.

They tried to kill the Indian out of us in the sixties scoop and in residential schools.

Today a very important event has been organized to counteract the candidates of the BC Conservatives and BC United parties, and their funders speaking with a forked tongue about how recovery and abstinence is the only answer.

And I say bullshit.

In fact these cowards actually ran away today. They changed the location for their conference last minute because they are scared of accountability.

Recovery is very specific and unique to each individual. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next person. And when the unregulated drug supply is as toxic as it is right now, promoting abstinence can actually be deadly in the very common case of relapse.

They say that relapse is part of recovery, even if it means death. Shame.

I am here today to talk about the public ban on drug use that the politicians and grifters [that left this building] have been pushing for.

As an Indigenous woman, I am very familiar with what its like on the streets for Indigenous women. Having to hide drug use is only going to promote more violence against women, and especially Indigenous women.

The stats say that I am 11 times more likely to die of an overdose death than other women. And that doesn’t sit very well with me. That’s why the importance of understanding the severity of what the public ban on drug use will mean.

Pushing people into isolation will mean nobody will be able to get to them if and when they overdose.

Pushing people into isolation means that women will have no safety from violence and no one looking out for them.

These politicians have actually taken us backwards in respect to decriminalization. Now  Bill 34 will take us even further back.

My sister in Alberta was driven into the middle of nowhere and left for dead in isolation in the middle of a blizzard by police known as the Twilight Tours. This colonial governments’ tactics haven’t changed.

They are still trying to force us into isolation, whether the police kill us themselves or whether they leave us to die alone.

Canada depends on killing Indigenous people for this state’s survival. To take our land and our resources, they are continuing to wage a war on our people.

The public drug use ban is going to disproportionately affect Indigenous people who represent over 30% of the homeless population [in Metro Vancouver], but less than 5% of the overall population.

These wicked policies are by design and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Shame.

The media will report about public drug use but never about the reason why. In Surrey, the housing crisis has led to an increase in homelessness of 65% between 2020 and 2023. Why do they vilify us? Shame.

You’ll never see the media reports any of the violence or brutality against Indigenous women surviving on the streets in Surrey. Why is this? Shame.

As an Elder, I use a walker and sometimes I pause because the pain of being on my feet all day is overwhelming and I need a break. Sometimes I need a break from the rain or the other elements.

Under a public drug use ban which allows police to remove anyone that they “suspect” of drug use from public spaces, means that I will not be able to take a break.

What we need are safe inhalation spaces so people have a safe place to use, a safe place to go. In Surrey, a city three times bigger geographically than Vancouver with a comparable population, we only have one place. Can you believe that?

We need more welfare rate housing. Not just short-lived assisted living housing that kicks us back out after three years. We need permanent housing solutions. In Surrey, they’ve kicked out so many people on assisted living after a few years. Some of those women were there for years.

And what we need most of all is safe supply. Safe supply would’ve saved the lives of many of the people who aren’t with us anymore. Safe supply will give stability and reduce the need to interact with the illicit market. Safe supply would prevent violence against women.

Safe supply takes the criminal element out of drug use and helps you move forward with your life to focus on the things that you want and the opportunities we want to pursue to move forward in our lives.

I’ve been vocal about violence against Indigenous women, about murdered and missing Indigenous women for over thirty years. Nothing has changed – if anything, the toxic drug supply has made things worse.

Fuck the police and fuck these grifters who are trying to get rich off of the backs of my people. Shame!

When the BC NDP says that they are committed to truth and reconciliation, they are full of shit. They need to put their actions where there mouth is. Shame!

Enough is enough, we won’t take this any longer. Today we are here together and we are going to continue to rise up together and fight this violent system in the true spirit of reconciliation.

Thank you.