An Open Letter to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Subject: An Open Letter to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
From: The Citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador
Date: 21 Jan 2021

This is an open letter to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

To whom it may concern,

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is undergoing a crisis of mental health disorder and drug addiction. Lack of services, lack of government support and rampant stigma towards addicts and those experiencing mental health disorders have resulted in a major lack of care that has had far reaching consequences in the lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. What services we have are underfunded and understaffed, with wait lists and hoops to jump through, often leaving those who need these services the most to fall through the cracks.

Our addicts have probably suffered the most. They've been treated as criminals first, and are systematically denied access to mental health care services. They are housed along side violent criminals, with no consideration for the root cause of their problem,
mental health disorder. Her Majesty's Penitentiary, a dilapidated ancient structure, has been the site of the most horrendous human rights abuses to ever occur in this province. Inmates have been denied basic needs, denied the right to wash themselves, denied proper nutrition, denied access to health care.

Our goals right now are simple, we're asking the federal and provincial government to collaborate with advocacy groups and Healthcare representatives on creating a free mental health and rehabilitation facility in our province that nonviolent drug addicts can avail to as an alternative to traditional prison, with a model of rehabilitation focused on holistic approaches over pharmaceutical intervention.

We only have a provincial prison and a couple of other small facilities here and it is a nightmare. HMP is ancient, it's dilapidated, and the prisoners kept there are mistreated while essentially being denied the mental health care they require. We've had suicides, a sharp increase in overdoses and deaths, and a massive spot light has been shone on the abuses perpetrated by staff towards inmates, including the denial of basic human rights, grose misuse of solitary confinement, and the beating to death of an indigenous inmate by multiple guards.

Our second goal is to see Her Majesty's Penitentiary completely demolished and replaced with a proper, modern, if not groundbreakingly futuristic, federal facility.

Long term, we wish to see a complete upheaval of our current justice system. A complete rewrite of how we keep, treat, house and reform inmates with a focus on reteaching people how to live normal lives, how to care for themselves, teaching health and wellness methods including body care and meditation as well as providing work programs and any and all heath care needs. Apartments not cells. This is based on the Dutch model of reform.

We call for a compete retraining of ALL prison staff in the country, with a focus on ethics, human rights, respect and sensitivity to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, disability and mental health disorder. We call for a mass investigation of anybody who has been proven to have taken part in any activities that harm or otherwise threaten the rehabilitation process and the reform of inmates.

We call for a complete decriminalization of ALL drugs. Possession or ingestion, a person's relationship with drugs should have nothing to do with their incarceration aside from giving them the option to take advantage of free, effective, rehabilitation services. This is loosely based on the Portugal model of decriminalization and rehabilitation.

We call for a standardized overdose response unit to be created and implemented country wide. These units should consist of paramedics, first responders and security staff, whom all dress the same, no visible police presence or response from police what so ever. Police have no business attending an overdose they bring fear, judgment, they look for crimes where the only thing that matters is the life of the person overdosing. In my case the paramedics refused to enter my house to save my brothers life until a police officer arrived, I had to beg them, and the cop didn't show until after they woke him up and got him in the ambulance. The goal here is to decrease response time while increasing overdose response effectiveness and protecting the safety of first responders.

We ask the media to assist in breaking the current stigma towards addiction and mental health disorders, through media campaigns geared towards educating the public about the realities of addiction and other mental health disorders and how preconceived social agreements can profoundly influence how people are treated, impacting self perception, access to care, and a government's responsibility to act.

We will ask Canada to look at the successes of other nations and implement their successful policies.

We will create a united front of Canadian citizens of all walks of life that we hope will stand together and with one voice will tell the country that we're not going to stand by and allow this to carry on as is. We're not going to stand by as human rights are disregarded. We're not going to sit by and watch a poorly thought out system lead our brothers and sisters to their deaths. We're not going to allow society to carry on under the social agreement that addicts are just criminals and should be treated as such.

We demand government action.


The Citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.