Canadians Carry Coffins to Protest Rehab Firings

By McCarton Ackerman 12/19/12

Vancouver's recovery community stages a dramatic protest march against funding cuts.

The protesters carried 40 coffins. Photo via

Vancouver residents staged a dramatic protest yesterday over firings at a treatment center serving the city's most at-risk women. After the Rainier Drug and Treatment Centre was forced to lay off eight full-time mental health and addiction workers on staff, over 200 people marched to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark's office on Tuesday—carrying coffins. The 40-bed facility, which houses many women who have failed in other treatment programs, opened in 2009 with $9.5 million from the province and a one-time $5 million donation from Health Canada. But federal funding runs out in January. In order for health care workers to remain on site 24 hours a day, the facility had no choice but to let the eight employees go, according to Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo. "There were 50 women that actually completed the program, and it was a high cost, so as far as health care goes and the recovery goes, we’ve taken the most beneficial things—the housing and the healthcare—and we’re transitioning that forward,” she says. The released workers were non-clinical staff who helped facilitate activities like yoga and morning walks, but many feel that they were just as crucial to the recovery process as the clinical staff. "They’re there 24 hours, taking them to appointments, they take them to get groceries, they take them to do all those little tasks, which are not clinical, but it’s what makes it a treatment centre and it’s what makes it so successful,” says Rainier community mental health and addiction worker Lindsay Thompson. “VCH is continuing some of the clinical services, which is at least something, but it’s not enough to make it a treatment centre. They’re cutting all the therapeutic programs.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.