Surrey Union of Drug Users Opens Pop-Up Inhalation Tent in Whalley

The Surrey Union of Drug Users – SUDU – opened a temporary supervised inhalation tent near City Parkway and 107A Avenue in the Whalley community this evening.

With a tent, a few containers of CaviWipes, and a number of people experienced in overdose response, SUDU started running a safe inhalation site, just as the only authorized location in Surrey closed for the day at 9:00pm.

Since 2016, more than 1,700 people have died directly from drug poisonings and overdose in Surrey alone. Death rates alone do not capture the harm driven by the unregulated drug supply and market. In 2016, BC Health Minister Terry Lake executed a provincewide ministerial order, intended to ensure overdose prevention services wherever there is a need. SUDU is showing the BC NDP how easy it can be to act — if social license, permits, and resources are made available.

SUDU’s pop-up inhalation tent, July 9 2024

In a press release, SUDU notes that there are a number of neighbourhoods in Surrey where this has not occurred – specifically pointing out Guildford and Newton as neglected areas. 

SUDU board member Gina Egilson refers to the inaction of the province: “The government is refusing to undercut the poisoned supply and provide regulated alternatives as urged by BC’s expert Death Review Panel, while also failing to open inhalation sites as per BC’s Auditor General’s report.”

“That leaves it to us to take action, because unlike them, we cannot tolerate one more person’s death.”

People have also passed by to receive harm reduction gear.

Harnek Bal, a member of SUDU’s South Asian Committee also brought attention to the specific abandonment that has been felt by some in the South Asian diaspora throughout the toxic drug public health emergency. 

“The deaths and struggles of South Asian people who use drugs have gone largely neglected in this eight-year long public health emergency. In addition to the complete lack of services in Newton, there is a broader issue of a lack of cultural safety and effort to overcome language barriers to save lives across all types of existing services.”

While tracking race-based statistics is not part of the provincial or federal public health responses, analysis conducted by the Fraser Health Authority showed disproportionately high increases in overdose deaths among South Asian people between 2015–18 compared to the general population. Fraser Health has not released an updated analysis since. 

Graphic from 2020 Fraser Health Report by the Chief Medical Officer

“It is not stigma that is killing our community members – it is a series of policy choices and structural conditions that exclude and marginalize racialized people,” Bal added.  

SUDU’s site will be open tonight and tomorrow night from 9pm-1am. The drug user rights group may host future pop-ups if public health bodies continue to neglect Surrey’s overdose response.