It takes several days and nights
to cross Canada by rail and longer to drive , so attending national conferences here isn ’ t like the UK . But a conference took place at the start of September unlike any other I have attended – the virtual Recovery Capital Conference of Canada 2020 was organised by Last Door , a long-standing residential project in Greater Vancouver that provides care in various settings to around 150 clients , and beamed live across the country .
Last Door announced that they would not be holding their usual recovery champion conference , which usually brings around 300 people together , and instead decided to hold this year ’ s conference as a virtual event . With sponsorship from all sorts of institutions , and government and political participants involved , they welcomed 1,600 people from all across Canada , with participants able to message other attendees and ask questions of the speakers .
The concept of recovery capital is not as familiar in Canada as it has become in the UK , and Dr David Best – well known in the UK for his work in this area – gave one of the best-rated presentations of the day , where he explained both recovery capital and the importance of becoming resilient . And resilience is becoming the watchword here in British Columbia because
Bill Nelles reports from Canada ’ s first virtual recovery capital conference
the number of fatal overdoses continues to rise , despite all the efforts being made . More people died of illicit drug overdoses in BC in the first eight months of 2020 than in the whole of 2019 , and nearly 200 people continue dying in this way every month . So the need to provide opportunities for people to get help has never been more pressing .
Recovery is such a personal thing , and whilst some define it as the renunciation of all psychoactive substances , there are many who have fought to widen the definition to include those who change their lives and stop using street drugs through medical treatments . So it was particularly pleasant to hear several of the presenting peers talk about the help they had received from medication in the course of their own journey .
One effect of the opiate emergency here has been to sharply reduce the arguments and competition around how people get better and just what comprises recovery – we all pitch in together regardless of how we found our path . There ’ s no better way to show this than to read the Opioids Survivors Guide which six of us wrote last year – it covers all the ways for people to stay alive .
Graphic by Hawkfeather Peterson . Opioids Survivors Guide available at https :// www . bccsu . ca / opioids-survivors-guide /
OBITUARY GARY SUTTON
Bill Nelles says goodbye to an irreplaceable friend and colleague
’ d like to pay tribute to my dear friend and colleague , Gary Sutton , who passed on earlier in September . Gary was in a league of his own – loved and respected by thousands of people whose lives he touched during his career as an advocate and expert witness .
For so many , he was the heart at Release , the UK charity that provides legal assistance to those charged with drug offences . As head of drug services , he broadened the charity ’ s ability to help users in crisis over treatment as well as the law , and authored countless special reports . Having also found time to gain a master ’ s degree in therapeutic counselling , he regularly lectured as well as providing help to clients at various projects . As a senior member of a leading legal agency , Gary was also a frequent witness for the defence ( of course ) as well as working alongside leaders in the field .
Gary had a dry sense of humour which made him great fun to be around . Sitting with him after a successful conference was always a warm and happy experience . He was a great listener but also a great raconteur . His cheeky – but more often , earnest – expression , especially when describing a
‘ Gary was in a league of his own – loved and respected by thousands of people whose lives he touched ...’
particularly egregious situation , will always be with me , for Gary also had strong principles that he did not compromise .
As a founding director on the board of the Alliance in 1998 , he always gave me invaluable advice and counsel . For five years , he was my wingman , sharing his perspectives on all manner of things – particularly treatment policy and practice . When I saw him last around 2009 he was happy and fulfilled , with love all around him .
Release always had a special place in my heart , and when Gary joined their staff team I knew he was in the right place at the right time . He packed more into his twenty-plus years there than most people do in a long lifetime . He will be greatly missed for he was , quite simply , irreplaceable .
16 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • OCTOBER 2020 WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM