OTTAWA — Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands), has named Racelle Kooy (candidate for Victoria) as Mental Health and Addictions critic on the party’s Shadow Cabinet. The Shadow Cabinet develops positions based on policies adopted by Green Party membership.
Racelle Kooy’s relation to the portfolio of mental health and addiction is deeply personal. She has lost family members and friends who struggled with addiction and mental health issues, many of whom actively sought help. She lost her brother Martin to a heroin overdose in 1997. Racelle’s graduate research was disrupted as the community she was working with, Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (a rural-remote First Nation in central BC), was in crisis due to a crystal meth outbreak. She actively supports many who walk the path of recovery. She celebrates her parents’ journey and positive impacts as trained cognitive therapy counsellors who went on to run an Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous program through a faith-based community for over twenty years.
“I am deeply humbled to stand as the Shadow Cabinet Critic for mental health and addiction.,” said Ms. Kooy. “Victoria is such a place of contrasts. It is where so many, including my now deceased cousin, struggle with homelessness, mental health and addiction. It is also the epicentre of research and pilot projects such as the Centre for Addiction Research of BC, Canada Research Chair in Substance Use, Addictions and Health Services Research, The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, Aids Vancouver Island, Umbrella Society, and South Island Community Overdose Response Network.
Ms. Kooy is grateful for the front line workers on the streets, in hospitals and institutes as well as the change makers who are working on effective policy. “Saturday August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day — a stark reminder that there is much work to be done,” she said.
“Racelle knows intimately the tragic and heartbreaking circumstances related to addiction and mental health issues,” said Ms. May. “Sadly many Canadian families endure the suffering that results from both of these diseases. We are witnessing unprecedented outbreaks of overdose deaths across the country. Many people experiencing mental health problems go undiagnosed or are unable to get access to the proper treatments. I am honoured to have Racelle Kooy as my shadow cabinet advocate for mental health and addictions. I know she will provide the Party with insightful guidance on this sensitive issue.”
The BC Provincial Health Officer shared earlier this year that overdose has become the leading cause of unnatural deaths in BC since 2016; in 2018 there were 4.5 times more overdose deaths than from motor vehicle crashes. Also, by the end of 2018, fentanyl had been detected in 85 per cent of overdose deaths.
Greens in government will declare the opioid crisis a national health emergency. Greens have long advocated that drug addiction be treated as a public health issue, not a felony. In addition the Party believes in the success and the need to support non-institutionalized, community-based support for substance-abuse prevention and rehabilitation programs.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has highlighted that, by age 40, about half of Canadians will have or have had a mental illness. The Green Party of Canada is committed to establishing a national mental health and suicide prevention strategy to address the growing anxieties plaguing Canadians regarding inequality and affordability, the growing precariousness of work and housing, the climate crisis, social isolation, resurgent racial and ethno-nationalism and other harms and risks.
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