Around Town: Two weeks for $2 million, COVID-19 / Opiod double whammy . . .

Union Gospel Mission  (UGM) and The Salvation Army have joined forces to create a COVID Relief Together initiative – and their goal is to raise $2 million in two weeks.

Speaking on CTV News last week, UGM spokesperson Jeremy Hunka said residents of the Downtown Eastside are now particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus on a couple of fronts:

“Some have immune system deficiencies. They’ve been beaten and battered from being homeless or living outside already and we know that the health outcomes for COVID-19 for that specific group of the population are far worse,” he said.

“So if there were an outbreak, it would be devastating to the Downtown Eastside or the homeless community.”

Another challenge facing the neighbourhood is that many organizations or service providers have been forced to reduce or suspend some of their services because of the pandemic. This comes as many people who have recently been laid off are now seeking out those services.

“So there’s fewer places to go. There’s a greater need,” said Hunka.

Here is how the two ministries describe their partnership:

Union Gospel Mission and The Salvation Army (British Columbia Division) have partnered, creating the COVID Relief Together initiative to assist individuals and families in need of emergency relief and basic necessities.

We’re all in this together, and we need your help to raise $2 million in two weeks to care for our neighbours impacted by COVID-19 during these difficult times.

You’ll provide everything from meals and care packages to counselling and shelter services to people most affected by this crisis. Your gift will offer essential relief to fellow British Columbians during and after the pandemic.

We can’t do it without you – please help us reach $2 million for your neighbours in need today.

You can donate here.

COVID-19 / opioid crisis

Benjamin Perrin is a professor at UBC’s Peter A. Allard School of Law.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has some massive financial issues hanging over his head, but he has also focused on the particular threat to the Downtown Eastside posed by the combination of COVID-19 and the opioid crisis. (For example, in a April 14 Vancouver Sun opinion piece.)

UBC law professor Benjamin Perrin, author of the just-released Overdose: Heartbreak and Hope in Canada’s Opioid Crisis is equally concerned.

He also wrote a comment in the Sun, with Jordan Westfall, president of the Canadian Association for Safe Supply. It began:

Canada is in the midst of two simultaneous public health emergencies – the COVID-19 and drug-overdose epidemics. We are gravely concerned that this has all the makings of a perfect storm that will exacerbate suffering and loss of life if immediate action isn’t taken.

The response to COVID-19 has rightly been rapid, intense and extensive. Tragically, the opposite is true of the continuing opioid crisis, which has already claimed over 14,000 lives in Canada since 2016, with a person dying every two hours. It’s Canada’s forgotten public health emergency. . . .

A central urgent issue is ensuring that people who use illicit drugs across Canada have access to a “safe supply.” As people who use drugs have reduced access to drugs during COVID-19 and take less, their tolerance will rapidly reduce. The medical research is clear that abstinence (voluntary or not) increases the risk of a fatal overdose when the person uses again. And opioid-use disorder is understood to be a chronic, relapsing condition.

Without providing people who use drugs with a safe supply of drugs of known potency and contents during COVID-19 and beyond, people who use drugs are at increased risk of overdose.

Perrin should be taken seriously, both as a legal expert who changed his mind after studying the matter in depth and as a Christian brother.

Perrin was to have had the opportunity to promote his book today (April 16) at UBC Robson Square, but that has, of course, been cancelled. Thus I will re-post what I included in my Around Town column in early February:

UBC law professor Benjamin Perrin has had a change of heart about our culture’s attitude to drug users and to public policies affecting their lives.

His book on the subject – Overdose – won’t be out until the end of March, but he wrote I used to believe safe drug sites were bad, but I was wrong in the Calgary Herald January 27.

Here is the introduction:

I used to agree with premiers Jason Kenney and Doug Ford that supervised consumption sites are a horrible idea. But a few years ago, I started noticing people were dying. The number grew to hundreds, then thousands, making the opioid crisis the worst public health epidemic in a generation. Someone dies every two hours from an illicit drug overdose in Canada. Life expectancy has even dropped because of it.

As someone who was once Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s top criminal justice adviser, I felt a moral and ethical obligation to do something about it. I prayed about it. I interviewed the experts. I read the evidence.

What I concluded after all of this research and soul-searching is that my views about drug policy were a deadly cocktail of ignorance and ideology that costs people their lives and devastates communities. I realized that it isn’t illicit drugs that are killing people, it’s our lack of compassion.

Go here for his full article, which explains how his Christian faith affects his transformation on the issue.

A February 2 article by Chris Selley suggests that some will not be quick to overlook his Conservative past. He wrote:

On social media, the [Calgary Herald] piece was met with roughly equal parts praise and exasperation. “(It) makes me so angry that the ‘research and soul-searching’ wasn’t done while advising the prime minister,” author and former Ottawa Citizen columnist Kate Heartfield tweeted for the exasperated. “I and many others wrote columns and editorials in those years pointing to the abundant evidence. People were dying then.”

This is a more-than-fair point. . . .

Perrin has a pitch for social conservatives, too, his conversion having been driven largely by a latter-day embrace of Christianity. “If Jesus Christ walked the earth today, I believe he would spend much of his time, as he did two millennia ago . . . . showing his compassion and love to the outcasts of our society,” he wrote in the Herald.

“He would be sitting in (Vancouver’s) Downtown East Side and talking to people and sharing love with them,” he says in an interview. “He would not be condemning them for their drug use. He would be telling them that there’s hope.”

But having lived inside the Conservatives’ dogmatic bubble on the issue, he dismisses the notion that studies, op-eds, or indeed facts can change very many people’s minds on their own. . . .

Go here for the full story.

Overdose looks set to make an impact. Reviewed positively by the like of Dr. Gabor Maté, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Vancouver Granville MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, it will be on sale March 31.

Go here for an excerpt of a talk (‘Jesus & Justice: What would Jesus think about our criminal justice system and why should you care?’) Perrin delivered at the Peter A. Allard School of Law on the UBC campus, where he teaches.

Webinars / online events

While in-person events have been cancelled (with a couple of exceptions in unique circumstances), a new crop of webinars, virtual cafes and such online events have taken their place. See below.

April 16, 2020

Webinar: How to Launch Alpha Online – April 16, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Full: Webinar: Missional Commons – Where are We Now? – April 16, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Cancelled: Overdose National Book Tour with Benjamin Perrin – April 16, 2020 at 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Cancelled: Almost Silent Retreat – April 16, 2020 - April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 5:00 pm

April 17, 2020

Postponed: Betty Spackman: A Creature Comfort – April 17, 2020 at All Day
Webinar: COVID-19 and the Majority World – April 17, 2020 at 6:00 am - 7:30 am
Canadian Youth Worker Prayer Call (every Friday) – April 17, 2020 - April 24, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Charter Day Webinar: Celebrating Canada's Fundamental (and Sometimes Forgetten) Freedoms – April 17, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Webinar: SOGI 123 – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – April 17, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Webinar with Derek Sloan, Candidate for Leader of Conservative Party of Canada – April 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Cancelled: New Eyes for Reading the Old Testament – April 17, 2020 - April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Postponed: Gospel Boom: The Astounding Growth of Worldwide Christianity – April 17, 2020 - April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Postponed: Tim & the Glory Boys: The Buffalo Road Show – April 17, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

April 18, 2020

Postponed: Journey Home Refugee Support: Volunteer Training – April 18, 2020 at 8:45 am - 3:00 pm
Postponed: Brave Love Ladner – April 18, 2020 at 1:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Postponed: Alzheimer Café – April 18, 2020 at 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Postponed: Tim & the Glory Boys: The Buffalo Roadshow – April 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

April 19, 2020

Postponed: Jazz Vespers in the Valley: Greta Matassa Quartet – April 19, 2020 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Postponed: Tim & the Glory Boys: The Buffalo Roadshow – April 19, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

April 21, 2020

Webinar: Prayer in a Time of COVID-19 with Brian Heasely, International Prayer Director for Prayer 24-7 – April 21, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Postponed: Roddan Jubilee Lectures: Stephanie Allen – April 21, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

April 22, 2020

Postponed: Pallay: Andean Weaving of Liturgy & Design by Daniela Amestegui – April 22, 2020 at All Day
Webinar: John Lennox on "The Corona Crisis: How Should Christians Think, Act & Lead?" – April 22, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
EarthDay 2020: Towards a Green and Healthy Recovery – April 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Postponed: Pallay: Andean Weaving of Liturgy & Design by Daniela Amestegui – April 22, 2020 at 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm

April 23, 2020

Postponed: Spiritual Care Series: Caring for Aging Seniors (Thursday mornings) – April 23, 2020 at 9:30 am - 12:00 pm
Webinar: Social Isolation & Political Tribalism – Reversed Now, or Intensified? – April 23, 2020 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Webinar: Moral & Ethical Choice in Video Games – Are My Games Corrupting Me While I Shelter at Home? – April 23, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

April 24, 2020

Virtual Cafe A Rocha – April 24, 2020 at 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Global Prayer for Tech – April 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Cancelled: Loreto Aramendi Concert – April 24, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

April 25, 2020

Postponed: Everyday Theology Seminar: Share a Meal, – April 25, 2020 at 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Virtual Earth Day 2020: Uniting from Home, with Katharine Hayhoe – April 25, 2020 at 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Cancelled: Spirit(us): The Baroque Mentorship Orchestra – April 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

April 26, 2020

Good Seed Sunday – April 26, 2020 at All Day

April 27, 2020

Coronavirus and the book of Job with John Walton – April 27, 2020 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

April 28, 2020

Missional Commons Webinar: God and Neighbour – April 28, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am

April 30, 2020

Virtual Event: Business as Calling – Speaker Donna Cheung – April 30, 2020 at 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Missional Commons Webinar: God and Neighbour – April 30, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Reaching Your World: How to Share Hope During Social Distancing – April 30, 2020 at 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

May 1, 2020

Virtual Book Launch with David Taylor – May 1, 2020 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Livestream with Graham Ord – May 1, 2020 at 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

May 2, 2020

Postponed: Faith and Work Conference: Knowing Your Why in Life & Work – May 2, 2020 at 8:30 am - 3:00 pm

May 6, 2020

Webinar: A Call For Christian Marketplace Leaders: Facing The Economic Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic – May 6, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am

May 7, 2020

Webinar: Creating an Environment of Hospitality on Alpha – May 7, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Online Event: 'Round the Kitchen Table, hosted by Journey Home – May 7, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 7:45 pm

May 9, 2020

A Rocha Volunteer Day – May 9, 2020 at 9:30 am - 2:00 pm

May 11, 2020

Life Week – May 11, 2020 - May 15, 2020 at All Day
Livestream: Iwan Russell-Jones: God in the Painted Caves – Prehistoric Art & the Quest for Meaning – May 11, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

May 12, 2020

Missional Commons Webinar: What Do We Want to Bring With Us? – May 12, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Postponed: Pat Barratt: Build My Life Worship Nights – May 12, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

May 13, 2020

Conservative Leadership Candidates by Zoom – May 13, 2020 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Livestream: Amanda Russell-Jones: Sister in the Wilderness – Hagar in Art, Music & Literature – May 13, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

May 14, 2020

Virtual National March for Life – May 14, 2020 at 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Missional Commons Webinar: What Do We Want to Bring With Us? – May 14, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

May 15, 2020

Cancelled: The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote – May 15, 2020 at All Day
Free Income Tax Service (Tuesday & Saturday mornings) – May 15, 2020 at 9:30 am - 2:00 pm

May 18, 2020

LIvestream: Darrell Bock: Mind the Gap – From Living Event to Gospel Story – May 18, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

May 19, 2020

Virtual Night of Power Prayer Meeting – May 19, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

May 20, 2020

Alpha for Youth Webinar: Reaching Your Friends, With Ben and Jason – May 20, 2020 at 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Postponed: The Road to Healing: an evening with Kim Phuc Phan Thi – May 20, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Livestream: Diane Stinton: Immanuel, Image of God –Aspects of Popular Christology in Sub-Saharan Africa – May 20, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

May 21, 2020

Alpha Canada Webinar: Prayer, Leadership and Evangelism in a Season of Separation – May 21, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Webinar: Hope in the Midst of Crises – COVID-19, Climate Action and Faith – May 21, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

May 22, 2020

Cancelled: HistoryMaker Weekend 2020 – May 22, 2020 - May 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm - 12:30 pm
Cancelled: Do Justice, Love Mercy – May 22, 2020 - May 23, 2020 at 7:00 pm - 3:00 pm

May 23, 2020

Ecumenical Faith Break: Together in the Risen Lord – May 23, 2020 at 10:00 am - 11:15 am

May 25, 2020

Virtual Book Launch: 'Exiles on Mission: How Christians Can Thrive in a Post-Christian World' – May 25, 2020 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Livestream: Gordon T. Smith: The Trinity & the Shape of Christian Worship – May 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

May 27, 2020

Livestream: Joshua Coutts: Living According to the Lord's Day: The Formative Role of Worship in Early Christianity – May 27, 2020 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

May 28, 2020

Leading into our New Future: Canada's Recovery Plan and Christian Charities – May 28, 2020 at 9:30 am - 10:30 am
Virtual Book Launch: 'To Think Christianly: A History of L'Abri, Regent College and the Christian Study Center Movment' – May 28, 2020 at 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Virtual Event: Business as Calling: Speaker Josh Davis – May 28, 2020 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

May 29, 2020

Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation – May 29, 2020 - May 31, 2020 at All Day
Postponed: Centreing Prayer Mini Retreat – May 29, 2020 at 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

May 30, 2020

Together in One Place: An Online Ecumenical Prayer Service for Pentecost – May 30, 2020 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Postponed: Crystal Hicks: Stand Up for Something – May 30, 2020 at 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Postponed: Crystal Hicks: Stand Up for Something – May 30, 2020 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

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