Canada Overdose Protest

During the International Harm Reduction Conference in Montreal the then Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott gave a speech about the current state of harm reduction work in the country. As she started her speech protesters carrying banners moved in front of the stage to protest the lack of government action to prevent overdose deaths.

I was there working for the conference organisers Harm Reduction International (HRI) providing social media coverage, so as the protesters came past me, and I realised something was happening, I put down the laptop and picked up my camera. HRI hadn’t been informed by the that this was going to happen (normally protesters let conference organisers know so that press coverage can be arranged)… and this was something that needed covering. As you can see from the photos below quite a few people had cameras, but I it was just myself and an activist called Alexey Kurmanaevskiii who covered the whole room (he was recording video).

The Protest

Apart from the shouting of ‘they talk we die’ when the protesters started and an impassioned short speech from Zöe Dodd as they finished, this was a silent protest. The main group of protestors and a significant portion of the audience stood and turned their backs on the minister while she spoke.

Although she continued her speech the minister afterwards was visibly shaken by the event, some protesters had little sympathy for her (a reaction most likely caused by seeing so many people they know die from the lack of action). Others were more focused that it was the government they were protesting against (with the minister representing that government). For instance Bill Nelles who had protested but who also spoke to the minister after.

Photos from this series have featured on a number of news sites. The image of Bill and the minister also won a competition about emotion in photography on the Valerie Jardin podcast.
 
Protest
Protest
Banner
Protest
Banner
Protest
Protest
Protest
Protest
After

All images and content © Nigel Brunsdon, all rights reserved.