It’s unusual for a mayor to claim a “bloodbath” is occurring in their own city, to say the least.
But that’s the term Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson used on Friday (June 2) to describe the city’s overdose epidemic.
"The near-record number of drug overdose deaths in the fentanyl crisis is a bloodbath in all corners of Vancouver with no end in sight," he said in a media release.
“I urge the province to take immediate action on health care solutions to save lives and to dramatically ramp up overdose prevention and education efforts,” Robertson added.
Immediate action, however, is not going to happen because, essentially, there is no provincial government right now. There hasn’t been one since the provincial election on May 9, and there will not be one until the legislature reconvenes sometime later this month.
Even then, the public will have to wait for the Liberal government to officially fall to a nonconfidence vote and for the NDP and Green partnership to form a government, and then for B.C.’s new leaders to find their desks in Victoria and begin to get to work. (Outgoing Liberal ministers still have their jobs but are unlikely to implement any significant policies or programs. They haven’t done interviews since May 9 and since then some ministries have refused to provide journalists with even basic data related to their responsibilities.)
That B.C.’s 2017 election was so close means that Robertson and other mayors will likely have to wait at least two months before provincial politicians resume work on the overdose epidemic.
Meanwhile, the crisis deepens.
In the same release wherein Robertson described the situation in Vancouver as a “bloodbath”, the city presented the latest numbers it has for overdose deaths in Vancouver.
So far this year, illicit drugs have killed 170 people in the region’s first city.
That statistic only covers the period up to May 22, but it’s already a milestone for Vancouver.
It easily surpasses the annual average number of deaths that occurred in Vancouver during the overdose crisis of the 1990s. That number is 139.
The B.C. Coroners Service also released new data for overdose deaths last week.
During the first four months of 2017, there were 488 fatal overdoses across the province.
That suggests there will likely be more than 1,460 deaths by the end of 2017, which compares to 935 deaths last year, 518 in 2015, 368 in 2014, 332 in 2013, and 269 in 2012.
In five years, overdose deaths in B.C. have more than quadrupled.