As part of the Ryga Arts Festival, author and journalist Travis Lupick will be joining us for an online reading of his book Fighting for Space: How a group of drug users transformed one city’s struggle with addiction.
Lupick has extensively covered the opioid crisis in our province and subsequently won the George Ryga award for Social Awareness in Literature in 2018.
Fighting for Space is a heart wrenching and informative read that challenges long held beliefs about people who use drugs and how they are treated. Vancouver has been the epicentre of the overdose crisis, but it is not just a big city issue.
According to the BC Centre for Disease control website “since the declaration of the Covid-19 public health emergency, the rate of overdose events and illicit drug toxicity deaths have increased and surpassed historic highs.”
People are dying from street drugs laced with fentanyl, which can kill in a dose as small as a few grains of salt. They go on to say that due to the effects of the pandemic, there has been a decline in visits to overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption sites, which increases the risk of an overdose death.
Lupick’s book begins in the ’90s, telling the story of a grassroots group of residents who waged a political fight to transform the way Vancouver’s most marginalized were being treated. Poor, drug addicted and street entrenched people were being judged and mostly ignored. The activists that fought for harm reduction all those years ago no doubt saved countless lives, how have things changed since then?
The Government of Canada released a fact sheet with numbers that tell us that the opioid crisis continues to grow and that 94 per cent of overdose deaths happen by accident.
Part of addressing the issue is raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to drug use.
I encourage you to read Fighting for Space, and attend the virtual author reading.
He will be joining us from his home in California as part of the Ryga Arts Festival on Sunday, Aug. 15, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available at rygafest.ca.
Caroline McKay is the community librarian at the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.
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