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Documentary screening gives insight into Canada’s opioid crisis
By Kieran Fong

Audience members gather in Garneau before the opening of the screening (Kieran Fong)

The documentary, “Love in the Time of Fentanyl,” was screened at Edmonton’s Metro Cinema yesterday along with the film “Building Hope: Substance Use In The Trades.” The event featured harm reduction advocacy groups, a naloxone training session, and a discussion panel. Hundreds of people were in attendance.

In 2021, 1,817 Albertans died of drug poisonings, while Edmonton had over 500 drug poisoning deaths in 2022. Males account for most opioid toxicity deaths (76%), with most deaths being those aged 20-59 years. Alberta and B.C. have the worst death rates in Canada.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, NDP MP Heather McPherson, and city councillor Michael Janz took the podium before the screening. Sohi discussed city council’s plans to build 2800 new housing units, while McPherson criticized Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s drug policies.

The documentary “Building Hope: Substance Use in the Trades” was also screened, which featured four stories of male trade workers and their experiences with substance use.

Janz asked audience members to close their eyes and raise their hands if they had lost a loved one from a drug overdose. About a quarter of the audience raised their hands.

The film “Love in the Tie of Fentanyl” was directed by Colin Askey. The documentary features misfits who form a makeshift safe-injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The documentary is filmed in cinema-verité style, relying on handheld camera movement to immerse the audience into grittiness of the drug poisoning crisis. The audience applauded at the end.

“The primary goal is to connect neighbors together with resources to learn more about the overdose and drug poisoning epidemic that’s slamming Edmonton,” says Janz, who helped co-organize this sold-out event.

“It’s not an opioid crisis. It’s a crisis of a poison drug supply. And I hope people will understand that because you have to understand the problem to know what the solution is,” says Petra Schulz, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, an organization that advocates for changing failed drug policies. “People use substances. It might be somebody who sits in the classroom next to you. So be kind, supportive, and understanding.”

Afterwards, presentations were made by medical and public health experts. The panel advocated for decriminalizing drug use, and emphasized the root cause of the crisis is a poisoned drug supply. Supervised Consumption Services were also discussed for solutions.

All of the proceeds from the film went to 4B Harm Reduction, a non-profit formed in response to the social health challenges of marginalized people.

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