Joint submission to the Select Standing Committee on Health for its examination of the urgent and ongoing illicit drug toxicity and overdose crisis

About our submission

In July 2022, West Coast LEAF partnered with Parents Advocating Collectively for Kin (PACK) to make an oral presentation to BC’s Ministry of Health about how the family policing system undermines the health, safety, and wellbeing of parents who use substances, in particular mothers and birthing parents, and their children. 

PACK is made up of mothers and birthing parents who use or have used drugs, as well as allies. PACK serves as a community voice by ensuring regional representation and community-based participation in BC’s response to the overdose crisis and in all matters impacting mothers and birthing parents who use or have used drugs.  West Coast LEAF is grateful to be working closely with PACK as a partner in our Child Welfare Advocacy Communities of Practice Project. This project focuses on challenging the colonial family policing system and pushing for the supports families need to thrive together.  

In our joint submission, PACK and West Coast LEAF outlined connections between the drug poisoning and overdose crisis and the family policing system:

  • Research shows that child apprehensions are associated with serious negative health outcomes for mothers and birthing parents, including increased overdoses. A study by Meaghan Thumath et al. (2021) found that women whose child or children had been removed had significantly higher odds of unintended overdoses than those who had not gone through a child apprehension. Colonialism makes this devastating linkage even stronger: Indigenous women who had experienced child removal had more than twice the odds of unintended overdose than non-Indigenous women who had never had a child taken away. 

PACK and West Coast LEAF call for non-punitive policies and programs, including: 

The BC government has committed to stepping up its response to the drug poisoning crisis, yet it has not addressed the role of the family policing system in endangering the health, wellbeing, and lives of drug users and their children. 

  • Gender-specific and culturally informed harm-reduction services
  • Community-based, peer-led initiatives, with a strong emphasis on peer supports for parents and caregivers
  • An end to MCFD’s abstinence-based approach to substance use and child welfare, with clearly defined harm reduction policies and practices
  • Personalized, family-centered approaches instead of one blanket approach for all parents who use substances
  • Action to challenge discrimination and stigma against parents who use substances in health care and social services
Parents advocating collectively for kin


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