It all finally began to hit me last week. After Ryan died on the 6th of September I went into auto pilot. I knew what needed to get done and I made sure that it got done. Yes, I was overwrought and tears came very easily, but I still hadn’t begun to mourn the loss of my brother. Arrangements needed to be made and affairs settled, requiring me to focus my mind on the task at hand.
I flew to Ontario to attend the Veteran’s Mefloquine Rally in Ottawa on the 19th and finalized my brother’s memorial on returning home. Not long after that, I was off on another adventure, this time to Tuktoyaktuk with Mike Rude and his faithful companion Spark. Things didn’t turn out as planned however and I ended up back in Calgary, without much of a plan.
With nothing to distract me now, I began to finally comprehend the depth of my loss. My little brother is gone, and I’m never going to see him again. A hole in the Earth has opened up and swallowed me whole, or at least that is what it feels like. An intractible pain had gripped my heart and torn apart what remained of my battered soul.
Last week I had reached my lowest point, and I decided that the time had come for me to check myself into the hospital for my own safety. On Saturday I signed myself out Against Medical Advice, tired of repeating myself over and over again to a hundred different people. I was confident that I was making the correct decision, and I remain that confident now.
I remembered something that Churchill said. “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Somehow I have to keep on going. I have to walk down a very dark and lonely path through the grief and the guilt I am feeling right now, but I also have a lot of support to help me out along the way. My family and friends have reached out to me in my time of need and I am eternally grateful to them for that. I am also lucky to be a part of one of the biggest families around, and have received a lot of support from my brothers and sisters from other mother mothers and misters.
A part of me doesn’t want this feeling to end, afraid that when it does I will forget Ryan entirely. I know that this will never happen, there will never be a day that I won’t miss my little brother terribly. I have come to terms with the fact that my life will never be the same again, and that I will carry this with me until the day I die. There will forever be a sadness deep within me now that will never, ever go away.
I plan on fighting this battle on a number of fronts and will be utilizing a number of the methods at my disposal to do so. Grief counselling is on the list of things to do, along with a few other therapies, but so is volunteering, and writing. I’m going to start healing my soul by donating my time to the veteran’s food bank, so that some of my brothers and sisters can get the help that they need and a little of the respect that they are owed.
As I make this journey I’ll be documenting it in words and in pictures, in the hope that it may prove insightful and perhaps inspirational. Below are pictures I took on Monday, November 4th, as I walked around downtown Calgary.
Operation Tuktoyaktuk is put off until the spring, but the mission isn’t over.
It was late in the afternoon on Friday, October the 11th, and we were about a kilometer north of Fort Nelson, B.C.. We had just picked up road coffees and I was on Google Maps, looking at the final leg of the day’s journey from Fort Nelson to Fort Liard Hot Springs. I heard Mike say something about the truck up ahead that was coming out of a turnout. I looked up and saw the black Dodge Ram pulling out ahead of us, and he wasn’t slowing down. Moments later, two big Ram’s butted heads. The results speak for themselves.
Apart from the eerily familiar sound of vehicles colliding, the first thing I noticed was a sharp pain in my right shoulder. For a few minutes it felt as though I might have dislocated it, what with the sharp pain and inability to move my arm. I had to sit there for a few minutes and just take in what the hell had just happened.
I didn’t move but I could hear Mike shouting, and was soon able to see that that at least appeared unharmed. There were no screams of pain and no panic was present in either Mike or Spark as near as I was able to gather. Slowly I began to move my head which had been transfixed at the sight in front of it for a couple of minutes. The hood was crumpled up and part of the wrap on it was clearly visible to me now. I moved my gaze away from the canopy of the parachute on the hood and began to assess the situation further.
By now the other driver, a rather distraught looking young man named Brandon, had stepped out of his Dodge Ram and was on his cell phone. Mike noticed an RCMP cruiser just a couple of minutes prior to the accident so we knew that they wouldn’t be that far away. Sure enough we had 2 RCMP members on scene within about 15-20 minutes, and the whole thing was wrapped up on the highway in less than 90 minutes. By then the debris had been cleared from the highway, reports had been taken, information exchanged, and we were on our way to a hotel back in Fort Nelson for the forseeable future.
We had a late dinner at Boston Pizza with which I had a pint of Rickards Red. I should also add here that you would barely know that Spark was there. She keeps her presence discreet, laying under the table at Mike’s feet. She stays out of sight and is quiet the whole time and was under Mike’s control.
Now The Fun Really Begins
Overnight Friday into Saturday is when I first started to notice that I wasn’t feeling well. I had pain on the right side of my belly, and it was sore to the touch. I began throwing up, and starting feeling chills. Mike and Spark weren’t around for my first episode in the bathroom, but they were around for the next couple. By the way I REALLY must apologize to Mike and the housekeeping staff at the Lakeview Inn in Fort Nelson for the state of the bathroom. I tried cleaning it as best I could but I was just not up to santizing it. I mean it wasn’t like anything out of The Exorcist, but it was a little funky.
Mike repeatedly asked if I was okay and if I wanted to go to the hospital. The smart thing to do would have been to say “Great idea Mike, lets go now.”. This did not happen however, and I stubbornly insisted on waiting until morning to see how I felt. Well, as the night wore on all that happened was I began to feel even worse, so I decided to get my ass to the hospital.
So off to the northernmost hospital in British Columbia I went, and after the usual paperwork, triage, etc., I was put in a bed where I was then poked for blood and had an IV started. It wasn’t long before I was being told that I had an infection of some kind and that I would need to go for a CT scan. The only problem is, Fort Nelson doesn’t have a CT scanner so I was put on a medivac flight to the nearest community that had one, Fort St. John.
We had passed through Fort St. John only a couple of days before, and now I was back as a patient in the hospital. I would end up spending two nights under their care, and with no beds available I spent them on a gurney in the ER, but I at least had a room to myself. They gave me Ancef and Flagyl to treat whatever it was that had caused my white blood cell count to spike, and morphine to dull the cramps in my belly. I had E.coli once and the pains were quite similar, that severe cramping in your bowels that makes you break out into a cold sweat.
My Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a bowl of orange jello from the unit fridge and a bowl of cream of asparagus soup and a coffee from the supper tray they brought to me. It didn’t really sit well and shortly after the cramps began to return. It took a day or two before I was finally able to tolerate something other than soft foods.
By Tuesday I was declared fit enough to leave the hospital so I headed into town and found a room at the Motel 6 for the night. I now had to wait for Mike and Spark who were still a few hours up the road in Fort Nelson. There he would have ICBC to deal with and try to rustle up a rental vehicle for us, which would be no easy task considering that the box of the truck still had all of Mike’s stuff in it as well as most of the clothes I had packed for the trip. He would need to find a rental pick-up, and finding a sedan was hard enough up there so there would be no getting a rental.
The Rescue Mission
It didn’t take long before help was on its way and on Thursday night I was reunited with my travel companions. Our saviours were Mike’s sisters, and now mine, Roxanne and Colleen. They drove to Fort Nelson, picking up Mike, Spark, and all of our stuff, then stopped in Fort St. John to collect me. The next morning we began the drive back to Beaumont, and by the time we got there that Friday night I was glad to be one step closer to home. But, I had also found a group of friends that I hope to go on another road trip with someday, only next time it won’t be a rescue mission.
The Canadian Walk for Veterans is working in cooperation with Military Minds Inc. to identify, vet and donate net proceeds from the Canadian Walk For Veterans to programs/groups that are working for our fellow veteran/first responders. These retreats/camps are available to all serving members, veterans and first responders. Monies raised from the Canadian Walk for Veterans will be going directly to: Rally Point Retreat (Nova Scotia), Sheepdog Lodge (Alberta), Camp My Way (British Columbia), Honour House (Vancouver, BC)
Canadian Walk for Veterans 2019
I was in Gold Bar Park in Edmonton on Saturday morning for the 2nd Annual Walk For Veterans, and it gave me the opportunity to meet a few people in person that I have interacted with online over the past several months. I was able to spend some time with Bruce Given, who put together the rally at the legislature in Edmonton last month. I also had the opportunity to blaze with Bryce Hooper, cannabis educator extraordinaire and co-founder of The Herb Clinic.
Al Cameron of Veteran’s Voices was there as well. He is talking to veterans across Canada and recording their stories for posterity, keeping alive a part of the history of our country and those who lived it. He is performing a valuable service to both veterans and Canada and I think should be commended for it.
It was a great day, as people got together to walk and talk and socialize while raising some money for some worthy local charities. I enjoyed some time out in the sun, got some exercise, and met a bunch of really great people.
Later on in the afternoon we made our way to the Calmar Legion, where I would help set up some tables and chairs for those who would be gathering to watch W5. Canada’s premier newsmagazine was doing a feature on the court action that veterans are bringing against the government. I saw the cameraman and producer on a few occasions while I was there that week.
On Sunday I made for home, and as I finish recovering from the accident in familiar surroundings I am also working on plans for the future. I am looking forward to a reunion with Mike and Spark, and I pray that it won’t be long before his epic journey resumes. I hope that I will be fortunate enough to join him and Spark once again, so that I can document his journey and help him reach as many veterans as possible. The message that we are bringing them will save some of their lives and offer some hope to those who previously had none.
But I’m also from Alberta, and I have something to say about separation.
The results of Monday’s election are beyond disheartening for me though they are really not a surprise at all. I said months ago that this result, a Liberal minority government with Justin Trudeau remaining the Prime Minister of Canada, would be the absolute worst case scenario for Canada and will prove to be particularly devastating to Alberta and Saskatchewan.
I also said that I would work hard towards the cause of separation if this should ever happen. While I remain strongly in favor of separation, there is another group that needs me far more right now. Thousands of Canadian veterans are in desperate need of help right now and I am would like to reach as many of them as I possibly can.
Many of our men and women in uniform suffered brain damage because of a drug they were ordered to take. A drug that was known to be dangerous and that was obtained by the military under fraudulent circumstances. Since they began using this drug in 1992, over 1,000 veterans have committed suicide and I have no doubt that mefloquine has played a role in a majority in them.
The separatist movement has a lot of supporters and is championed by many. The same cannot be said of our veterans though and they need every bit of support that they can get. In the grand scheme of things I will be able to make more of a difference by focusing my attention and efforts on them, rather than separation.
It is my fervent hope that the government will figure out a solution to this crisis, and can work out a deal that will be fair and equitable. I don’t hold out much hope that this will happen any time soon, if at all, and so Alberta must be prepared to act to make sure its interests are taken care of.
In the meantime I will continue to do what I can to make sure that the best interests of our heroes are taken care of.
A filmcrew from CTV’s long-running news magazine was at the rally in Ottawa last month.
This Saturday evening at 7pm, W5, one of Canada’s premier news magazine programs, is running a story on the legal action that hundreds of Canadian veterans are launching against the federal government.
While we were in Ottawa last month a crew from W5 filmed some background shots and conducted interviews with some people including Marj Matchee and Mike Rude, who I have been on the road with for the last week and a half.
And, in a stunning development, it was announced today that retired General Romeo Dallaire has decided to add his name to the list of plaintiffs who are taking the government to court, and to task. Having someone with a profile as high as Dallaire could most certainly prove to be a game changer.
Tune in to your CTV affilliate on Saturday night at 7PM, or download the CTV News app to watch it anytime after.
Two members of my family are gone because of fentanyl, one of the most toxic substances on the planet.
For my little brother, who left us far too soon. I’ll miss you, Ryan.
Loves Labor Lost
This is the first time that I have written anything since I lost my younger brother almost a month ago. He was 43 when he passed away as the result of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, sometime in the early morning hours of September 6th. Like millions of others, my little brother was addicted to drugs and had been for a long time. So great was the internal anguish that he had felt, that turned to narcotics to ease it.
I don’t want him to be defined by the way he died, but rather for the man that he was. He was not perfect, but he was one of the kindest, most generous people that I knew. He was loyal to his friends and family, and had many long-term friendships, some going back well over 30 years. He touched a lot of lives and will be profoundly missed by those of us he leaves behind.
I have learned that in the days leading up to his death he had been talking about entering a long-term rehab facility. He was so very tired of the life he was living and wanted nothing more than to get better, to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. On the day he died, he was supposed to get together with one of his good friends and together they would look online for long-term rehab facilities located outside of town.
Last year, one of my cousins took his own life with an overdose of the fentanyl analog carfentanil, a drug 10,000 times stronger than morphine. It is so dangerous that many first responders have had to be hospitalized after coming into contact with a person having an overdose.
I wanted to know more about the poison that has claimed two members of my family, so as always, I started looking for some answers. The information I found in a very short amount of time sent a chill up my spine. Apart from the effect that fentanyl has had on my life personally, it also has significant international relations ramifications. The People’s Republic of China manufactures most, if not all, of the precursor chemicals used to synthesize fentanyl. You should also consider this; synthesized by scientists in a university laboratory in China, there is now a fentanyl analog so lethal, that one teaspoon would kill about as many people as the Great Plague did in Europe in the 14th century.
Opioid or Opiate?
To make the distinction, opiates are those drugs naturally derived from the flowering opium poppy plant (ie morphine, codeine). Opioids are a much broader category and include any substance, natural or synthetic, which binds to the brain’s opioid receptors.
Fentanyl will probably be the drug most associated with the opioid crisis, even though that distinction belongs to OxyContin, the Purdue Pharma extended release formulation of oxycodone that has the dubious reputation of starting it.
Although it has gained a great deal of attention 0ver the last decade, fentanyl has been around for a lot longer than that. Dr. Paul Jannsen first synthesized it in 1958 under a patent held by his company, Jannsen Pharmaceutica. It is now owned by conglomerate Johnnson & Johnson, who have lost big dollar law suits brought by women claiming Johnson’s Baby Powder caused their ovarian cancer.
It was a powerful analgesic, some 100x more powerful than morphine, and could also be used for anaesthesia. It would hit the market in the 1960. as an IV anaesthetic with the brand name Sublimaze.
Fentanyl Analogs and Derivatives
A chemical analog is a compound that is structurally similar to another compound on a molecular level, but differs from the original compound to some degree. Not long after Sublimaze was released its popularity would lead to the development of a number of fentanyl analogs and derivatives. among which were Sufentanil, Alfentanil, Lofentanil and Remifentanil.
The strongest analgesic available for human use, it is 5x the strength of fentanyl and 500x stronger than morphine. It is used in hospitals as an analgesic and as an adjunct to anaesthesia under the brand names Dsuvia and Sufenta.
Alfentanil has a potency that is approximately 10-25% that of fentanyl. It’s onset of action is 4x that of fentanyl but only lasts one-third as long. It is used as a short acting anaesthetic.
One of the most potent fentanyl analogs, it is most similar to carfentanil.
Used in a hospital setting, remifentanil is used for sedation, as an anaesthesia adjunct, and as an analgesic, having the brand name Ultiva. It is twice the strength of fentanyl and 200x more powerful than morphine.
Carfentanil is used as a sedative for large animals under the brand name Wildnil. At 100x the strength of fentanyl, it is 1000x more potent than morphine. It started to appear on the streets a few years ago with deadly results. The estimated lethal dosage in humans is 50 micrograms. By comparison, a poppy seed weighs approximately 300 micrograms.
Ohmefentanyl – The most potent and deadly fentanyl analog
Ohmefentanyl was first synthesized in the early 1970’s by scientists in a lab at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, China. More than 6,000x stronger than morphine, it is so potent that one ounce of ohmefentanyl is enough to kill 175 MILLION people. That being said it is far more complex to synthesize ohmefentanyl than it is to synthesize fentanyl. The process involves more equipment and additional precursors and solvents and, because it is so toxic, it is extremely hazardous to manufacture and can only be handled safely using protective equipment.
Synthesis and analgesic activity of stereoisomers of cis -fluoro-ohmefentanyl
Fentanyl is synthesized using ingredients known as precursors. These precursor chemicals are sold by manufacturers in China, who make tens of thousands of such compounds. These compounds include things such as food additives, veterinary products, pesticides, and the precursor chemicals used to synthesize pharmaceutical drugs, including fentanyl.
The vast majority of the precursors used in the synthesis of fentanyl are sent to Mexico, where most of the illict fentanyl in the US is made. It takes a trained chemist to synthesize fentanyl from scratch, something the Mexican cartels do not have. But, it is easier to make fentanyl using bulk supplies of the precursor chemicals, which is what the cartels do.
On September 17th of this year the DEA announced that it was putting forth a proposal to control three of the precursor chemicals needed to synthesize fentanyl. It’s difficult to say what effect if any this will have since the vast majority of illicit fentanyl is made in Mexico.
The take-home message here is that there are millions of fentanyl analogs that can be made from commercially available chemicals. It is all but certain that many of them will have fentanyl-like properties and that some of these will make even the most powerful analogs today, such as carfentanil and sufentanil, seem like cotton candy.
It just isn’t realistic to think that treaties or international law will end the production and distribution of these precursor compounds. There is simply no easy or effective way of enforcing international agreements amongst sovereign nations. Just look at the current state of international relations.
One way or another these chemicals will continue to be manufactured, the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. The fact also remains that scientists, primarily in The People’s Republic of China, will continue to attempt to synthesize something even stronger.
“NPP is a sensitive products. Why you buy it?” one Yuancheng saleswoman asked me on Skype, before the product was scheduled in China. “I know many people buy it. But I don’t know what it is used for.”
I explained that it was used to make fentanyl.
“I know fentanyl,” she continued, “but why people use it? We Chinese don’t use it.”
It’s highly addictive, I said.
“Yes, I know it is a bad products to person,” the saleswoman admitted, “but I still sell it, so sometimes I feel guilt. NPP is not forbidden in China, so we can sell. I sell it, because I want earn money, earn a living.”
While the DEA proposed making regulatory changes in their announcement of September 17th, similar regulatory changes in Canada came in to effect on May 6th, 2019, when they were registered in the Canada Gazette.
Government of Canada changes regulations to help prevent illegal production and trafficking of controlled substances
With such an extremely high potency, compounds like ohmefentanyl are simply not practical, or safe, for use as an analgesic in human beings. The only logical reason for synthesizing ohmefentanyl would be to use it as a weapon of mass destruction. Granted it would take a huge effort to weaponize it and come up with an effective delivery system, but it is still a distinct possibility.
In May of 2018, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a fact sheet for Federal EPA On Scene Coordinators who respond to any incidents of environmental contamination by fentanyl or its analogs. It is a comprehensive 11 page document, and some of the information contained in it caught my attention. It includes a list of the possible exposure pathways, in other words, the ways that fentanyl could be spread to a population. These include open areas, water/water systems, indoor facilities, and food.
Fact Sheet for OSCs: Version 1.0 05/22/2018 Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogs
Open Areas: While fentanyl is a solid powder at room temperature, it poses an inhalation or incidental ingestion exposure threat if sufficient powder becomes airborne. Fentanyl can also be dissolved in solvents and fentanyl citrate is soluble in water, which allows exposure in aerosol form. The literature indicates that police officers showed symptoms of opiate exposure after police activities created fentanyl dust/aerosol or when they worked in dusty areas.
Water/Water Systems: Fentanyl in liquid solution creates a possible dermal exposure pathway and is commonly used in many medicinal forms of fentanyl. Literature reviews indicate that aqueous fentanyl may be found as an illicit drug in intravenous form, nasal sprays, eye drops, and vape pen liquids. While fentanyl could enter natural waters or a water system, neither is a likely exposure pathway.
Indoor Facility: Fentanyl could potentially be dispersed as solid particulates or liquid spray (aerosol) inside a building or facility; HVAC systems may be affected. Fentanyl particulates are heavier (less buoyant) than air and will accumulate on lower levels and in utility corridors and/or deposit on surfaces inside a building.
Food: While food is an unlikely exposure pathway, fentanyl can be released as a fine dust or aerosol that may contaminate food.
Before anyone accuses me of giving terrorists and lunatics a great new idea, it is more than likely that someone has already come up with the idea and so have the security agencies that protect us. At least they should have anyway.
It now clearer than ever to me that the only way to eliminate the threat posed by fentanyl and its analogs, aside from banning its production, would be to have it classified as a chemical weapon, and heavily restrict its production and distribution as well as the production and distribution of its precursor chemicals.
The Startling Numbers
This will never happen, it simply isn’t a realistic expectation for a number of reasons. In the meantime, until someone can come up with a workable solution to counter this plague, the number of people killed by fentanyl will continue to rise.
Here in Alberta the statistics are alarming to say the least. In 2016 out of 803 drug and alcohol poisoning deaths 43% (347) were attributed to fentanyl or its analogs. In 2017 it had increased to 59% (565/951) and in 2018 fentanyl constituted 63% of overdose deaths (622/985).
Of these overdoses 80% involved fentanyl mixed other drugs. 50% involved methamphetamine, 25% cocaine, and 5% heroin. Drug dealers will add fentanyl to other drugs in order to increase their profitability, and as a means of attracting and retaining customers. What usually results however is that their customers wind up dead.
Nationally the number is even higher. In 2016 total number of overdose deaths in Canada was 3023, of which 50% were from fentanyl or its analogs. In 2017 it rose to 67% (4120) and was 73% in 2018 (4588). In the first three months of 2019 it was 79%.
The number of overdose deaths increased sharply as well, up 36% from 2016 to 2017 and up 11% from 2017 to 2018.
Trafficking in fentanyl is a very lucrative business. In fact, it is the most lucrative illicit narcotic currently sold. In 2017, 1 KG of pure fentanyl could be purchased for $4,150. That 1 KG could potentially generate $1,600,000 in revenue for the trafficker, a profit of over 38,000%
By comparison, traffickers will only realize a 1,300% profit off of heroin, or $80,000 in revenue from 1KG of heroin purchased for $6,000.
Fentanyl profitability in the US compared to heroin.
It has been more than a decade since media articles began reporting on what was then called an opioid epidemic, and is now referred to as the “opioid crisis”. In North America, fentanyl has become a threat to public safety unlike any illicit drug before, more than heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. It is the most potent and most addictive narcotic there is which also makes it the most dangerous.
Putting an end to this crisis will require action on the part of several governments. There is an ever growing population of opioid addicts who require immediate intervention, but there is currently a critical shortage of treatment facilities. Adding the extra capacity would require taxpayer funding, which would then make it a political issue, and politicians are loathe to spend money on projects from which they will recieve no benefit.
There also needs to be the political will to implement a different strategy to combat the problem. At the moment, efforts are geared more towards harm reduction for addicts. Some jurisdictions have opened safe injection sites, where addicts can do their drugs in a sterile environment and with medical intervention available in the event of an overdose.
There is also a segment of the population who believes that the legalization and regulation of all illicit narcotics is the solution. Many will cite Portugal as an example of success.
Portugal in the late 1990’s was dealing with a drug crisis of its own. One percent of its population, 100,000 people, were heroin users and on average more than 350 people a year were dying from a drug overdose. In the early 2000’s, Portugal overhauled its drug laws, decriminalizing small amounts of narcotics for personal use.
The number of overdose deaths has since plummeted, though this is not as a direct result of decriminalization. The Portuguese also recognized that it wasn’t enough to simply decriminalize illicit drugs, they also provided the means for addicts to access treatment, and assisted them as they reintegrated back into society.
If police find you with illicit drugs, you’ll be arrested and taken to a police station where the drugs will be weighed. If the amount is above the strictly enforced threshold limits — designed to be a 10-day supply for personal use, or 25 grams of cannabis, five grams of cannabis resin, two grams of cocaine, or one gram each of ecstasy or heroin — you can be charged as a trafficker. If convicted, jail terms range from one year to 14 years.
If the amount is below the limit, you’ll be sent the following day to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction — even if you’re a tourist. There, you will be interviewed by a psychologist or social worker before appearing before a three-person panel that will offer suggestions aimed at stopping your drug use.
From there, you’re fast-tracked to whatever services you’re willing to accept. If you refuse help, you can be asked to do community service or even, eventually, facing a fine, perhaps even having possessions confiscated and sold to pay the fine.
It’s why Goulão is so quick to point out that Portugal’s success isn’t because of decriminalization. It’s because, in 2001, his country made a commitment to providing whatever its citizens need to be as healthy and as fully engaged in society as possible.
“Decriminalization is not a silver bullet,” he said. “If you decriminalize and do nothing else, things will get worse.
“The most important part was making treatment available to everybody who needed it for free. This was our first goal.”
The precursor chemicals used to synthesize fentanyl and its analogs are manufactured in The People’s Republic of China, and the government places no restrictions on their production or shipping. For the manufacturers the only concern is that they sell their product and make a profit on it, without regard for its end use or the ensuing consequences it may bring. There is also very little likelihood that the Chinese will place any restrictions on the manufacture and distribution of these chemicals, and very little that anyone can do about it. In and of themselves they are not dangerous and do not pose a threat
When I analyze this through the lens of International Relations, I come to some conclusions that many will no doubt disagree with. I may even be labeled as paranoid or a conspiracy theorist, but I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.
Strategically speaking it is to China’s benefit that these chemicals be used to synthesize fentanyl. The economic benefit to China is relatively small compared to the strategic benefit. A rapid and dramatic increase in the number of drug addicts within a society will act as a destabilizing force within it, draining resources that could be better used elsewhere.
The Chinese have also lead the way in the synthesis of the most potent and deadly fentanyl analogs, with the potential ability to kill tens of millions of people. There are no conventions banning the research and development of synthetic opioid drugs like there are for chemical weapons or other WMD. Yes, I know that it would be very difficult, and that it would need the proper vehicle for delivery in order to be effective. How are we to know that one hasn’t already been developed, or is being worked on now? Theoretically, they could have already produced enough ohmefentanyl to wipe out half the population of the continental United States. This has the potential to weigh heavily on the global balance of power.
Share This Information
There are no quick and easy fixes to be found here, and people are going to continue dying in ever growing numbers. Individually there isn’t much that any of us can do either, it is something that must be dealt with on a governmental level and frankly, this gives me little hope that a solution will be found any time soon.
A lot of people will die that didn’t have to, people like my brother, and my heart breaks for the families and loved ones that will be left behind. Share this information with the people you know so that as many people as possible are aware of just how very bad the situation is. It is possible that it might one day save a life, perhaps the life of some one you know and love.
For Canadian mefloquine veterans, it’s at long last some recognition.
The Conservatives would also beef up transition services for discharged and retiring Forces members, provide more service dogs, kick-start more commemoration projects and launch an independent inquiry to investigate the cases of members who were given mefloquine. Several Forces members have launched a lawsuit against the government because of traumatic side effects from the anti-malaria drug. They allege they are still suffering from psychosis, paranoia and insomnia. That investigation would cost $20 million over two years, according to the PBO. Service dog costs are pegged at $4.5 million over three years.
Today’s announcement by Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer was quite significant. To the casual observer it was just another in a series of cynical campaign promises that get trotted out during election season. Funding is pledged for this program and that initiative in ridings across the country.
The most significant part of this particular promise was the pledge to have an independent inquiry called to look into investigate cases of CF members who were given mefloquine. I will take Mr. Scheer at his word on this promise, but I will also applaud him for going where no party leader has heretofore gone. He has acknowledged the fact that mefloquine is a serious issue in the veterans community that warrants investigating.
For the very first time, and due to the tireless efforts of advocates like Marj Matchee and Val Reyes-santiesteban, mefloquine has become an election issue. Marj had the opportunity to meet with Scheer, who is her MP, over the summer at a bar-b-que in his home riding. With her usual determination, she made her way to talk to him, and made an empassioned plea to him. She tells me he held her gaze, and listened intently to her as she made her case to him. He made a promise to her that he would not let our veterans down.
Today, he followed through on his pledge to her, and I suspect that he will indeed honour his promise should he win the Prime Minister’s office. Regardless, it was incredible news for mefloquine advocacy in Canada. The hard work of Marj Matchee and the many other dedicated advocates inspired by her is starting to bear fruit.
Many of us gathered in Ottawa last Thursday, to hold the Third Annual Veteran’s Mefloquine Rally on Parliament Hill. There, on the lawn in front of the iconic bell tower, I had the great honour and pleasure of opening the rally by introducing Marj, and also had the chance to finally meet with some of the many veterans and advocates whom I have talked to over the past several months.
Val Reyes-santiesteban has also been fighting this battle for a very long time. Her son, Scott Smith, was a member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment and was deployed to Rwanda in 1994 as part of a multinational humanitarian effort. On Christmas Day, 1994, she received a call from Scott. Shortly after he hung up, Scott Smith took his own life.
Since then she has dedicated herself to this advocacy, so that no more mothers ever have to endure what she has had to. No mother should ever have to bury her child.
For the many veterans and advocates who have worked so hard for over two decades to reach this point, this will be a momentous occasion. But, the battle is still far from over for them. There is still the matter of having the government own up to what it did, and to have it provide funding for research to find a treatment or cure for mefloquine toxicity, or quinism.
It also needs to do the right thing and ban mefloquine, as well as beginning a widespread awareness campaign which would provide information to the public about the dangers posed by mefloquine.
But for right now, this moment belongs to all those who have toiled and struggled for over two decades. It belongs to the thousands of Canadian veterans who were effected directly by mefloquine, and their loved ones and caregivers, but, most especially,it belongs to Marj and Val. It’s a small victory, but at long last, it’s a victory.
I am dedicating this to those who made it possible for me to make this journey. To Claude Lalancette, Marj Matchee, Kentrina Jenkins, and the many others who paid for this excursion, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my family, who have been an incredible support to me since I started down this road seven months ago, I give my everlasting gratitude and love. None of this would have been possible without you.
It’ll be a few days before I write anything of substance about the last six days. I still have a lot to process, and my emotions are still raw from the events of the past couple of weeks. Before I do that though, I thought I’d share with you some of the pictures I took throughout this adventure.
Day 1, Sunday 15 September
I was up hours before dawn and had a couple quick cups of coffee and a cigarette before double checking to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. My parents drove me to the airport, and I arrived at the departure level two hours before my scheduled 8 am flight. WestJet flight 658 to Toronto was a wide-body 787, equipped with screens at every seat which allowed you to pick from among a variety of ways to occupy your mind. Movies and TV shows were available, as was detailed flight information, available by Flight Tracker.
I got my nerd on and monitored the flight from the time it left the gate in Calgary until it reached the gate in Toronto.
I waited by the baggage carousel at Pearson for over half an hour before my suitcase finally appeared. I didn’t have to wait long before I spotted the man who had come to pick me up, and soon we were on the freeway for the trip to his home about 90 minutes away. Claude and Marcella were very gracious and generous hosts and made me feel very much at home along with their boys.
The highlight of the day was the dinner that Marcella had waiting for us. I could smell it as soon as I walked into the house. Done in a slow cooker, Marcella hade made us some traditional Colombian home cooking; frijoles. Kidney beans, cooked low and slow with some stewing beef, vegetables, spices, and plantains, which I hadn’t tried yet to that point. Served on a bed of rice and with a fried egg on top it was an incredibly delicious, authentic meal, and a glass or two of Corona with a little lime juice and salt added made a perfect pairing.
I consulted the Weather Network app and saw that we could look forward to a beautiful week in Ottawa, and the day of the rally was going to be sunny and 24 degrees C.
Day 2, Monday 16 September
We were up early, 5 am, and after a quick cup of Colombian coffee we were off to catch the GoTrain to Toronto. The commuter train runs between Toronto’s Union Station and Hamilton, Milton, Kitchener, Barrie, Richmond Hill, Linconville, Oshawa, and – seasonally – Niagara Falls.
Union Station, Toronto
Made the train to Ottawa with 10 minutes to spare.
The obligatory shot out the back of a moving train.
Our hotel was only a couple blocks away from Parliament Hill, so that was the first place I headed after checking in. For me, the first stop was the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was an emotional moment for me.
The East Block restoration and modernization.
The iconic Center Block.
After I took this shot, I looked up to the bell tower. It’s something I’ve seen thousands of times in photographs or on video, but it wasn’t until I saw it in person that I noticed the gargoyles beneath the clock.
The statue of Robert Borden.
The eternal flame, seen from in front of the shield of the Province of Alberta.
Fenced off due to construction. Because of this the rally was unable to be held on the steps as it previously had been.
The area around the eternal flame is a hotspot for tourists as well as protesters. While we were there checking things out that first day there we saw these two gentlemen carrying sandwich boards. One side was in French, the other English.
They were from the town of Shannon, Quebec, located near Canadian Forces Base Valcartier. Beginning in the 1940’s a number of toxic chemicals were dumped into local waterways. Among these chemicals was the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), which can result in harmful effects on the nervous system, liver, respiratory system, kidneys, blood, immune system, heart, and body weight.
Many of the town’s residents have been locked in a legal battle for years, claiming cancer rates in the area are more than twice the national average. I will be looking further into the situation in Shannon at a later date.
The day ends with a plate of mussels and a beer at Big Daddy’s in the hotel.
Day 3, Tuesday 17 September
Back to the Hill in the afternoon with Marj and Trina. On the way to our destination we pass by the Office of the Prime Minister. In a little under a month there should be a new occupant.
We were off to the Confederation Building, which houses the offices of Members of Parliament. We are off to the office of Marj’s MP, Cathay Wagantall, who had graciously let us use her office to do some printing and photocopying for the rally.
The visitors ID badge I was given.
The view out Cathay Wagantall’s office window.
I hate selfies, but there are times when you have to take them. Here I am in an MP’s empty office. Normally this building would by a beehive of activity, but with the place in election mode it’s like a morgue. Everyone is hitting the hustings in their home ridings.
Okay I just had to know what the bathrooms looked like. Apparently, just like any other bathroom in an old office building, complete with signs from management asking the tenants to use a little common sense. There you have it ladies and gentlemen, your parliamentary representatives are also slobs.
Welcome to the parliamentary biffy, where MP stands for Making Poop.
Or, in this case, Men’s Pisser.
I saw this place downtown but didn’t go in. It would have been quite appropriate.
Day 4, Wednesday 18 September
The Quinism Foundation held its annual Canadian Educational Meeting in Kanata. I attended the afternoon session, where afterwards we all congregated in the parking lot before heading over to Montana’s for dinner.
It was then that I took this picture of Val Reyes-santiesteban standing next to Mike Rude’s truck. The picture on the door is of her son, Scott Smith, who took his own life on Christmas Day 1994 while on a peacekeeping mission in Kigali, Rwanda. His suicide is one of many that resulted from the brain damage caused by mefloquine, the neurotoxic anti-malarial the government KNEW could cause extreme psychiatric side effects, yet gave it to highly trained and heavily armed soldiers in a high stress situation.
She is one of the grande dames of mefloquine advocacy in Canada, along with Marj Matchee.
Sgt. (ret.) Mike Rude has been driving all over Canada since early April spreading awareness about mefloquine to as many veterans as he possibly can. Up to this point, he had driven over 52,000 km’s on the Rude Awakening Tour, and saw all three of Canada’s coasts.
We were both at a healing circle later that evening. As we talked before things began, he asked if I would be interested in going up to Tuktoyaktuk with him in October. This is an opportunity that doesn’t exactly come up every day, at least not for me anyways, so it didn’t take me very long to accept the invitation.
I’ll be starting out my 50th year on Earth with a roadtrip adventure to Canada’s Arctic, and I’m pretty pumped about it.
Dr. Remington Nevin checks out the truck with Mike and his service dog Spark.
Mike Rude also has a mission to bring Afghan interpreter Niaz Husseini to Canada. Although he is in the United States and in a safe third country, it would be better for Niaz if he were here.
You see, he was seriously wounded in an IED explosion, losing both legs below the knee. As a result of his experiences, Niaz has PTSD. For many people, it is therapeutic to be near those with whom those traumatic experiences are shared. The Canadian government wouldn’t let him come to live here, and Mike would like very much to bring Niaz to Canada.
I have been telling Niaz’ story, and will be following it as this moves along.
Mike had something for Trina in the back of the truck.
A little while later a group of us headed to Montana’s for dinner. I ducked out for a cigarette, and who should I see but Dr. Nevin, on the phone with a veteran.
To say that the man is committed to his work would be an understatement. He was a doctor in the US Army, and his work on mefloquine at the time was, shall we say, controversial. He was starting to ring the alarm bell about mefloquine, and in doing so very nearly got himself court martialled, the military being very keen on its prized anti-malarial. Brain damage be damned.
Without his groundbreaking body of work on mefloquine, tens of thousands of people would be dead or living a nightmare.
Shortly after taking this photo, I was back inside and had engaged in a conversation with Capt. (ret.) Philip Brooks. We were standing a short distance from where we were seated, a beer in my hand and a glass of water in his. As he was talking to me, something began to happen. His was having difficulty speaking and suddenly he just stood there, staring blankly into space while he held his glass of water.
I looked over at the table, unsure about what exactly was happening, hoping that I could attract someones attention without creating a panic. His companion, Odessa, looked at him and said that he was having a seizure. I took the glass out of his hand and was quickly joined by Dave Bona, who jumped into action and guided Philip back to his seat. We were told that this happens all the time.
It was one of the more poignant moments of the trip, as I experienced first hand what it’s like to be around someone with quinism. I had seen the photophobia, the “Supermarket Syndrome”, and some of the other symptoms of quinism in many of the vets I had met up to that point, but a seizure is slightly more dramatic and it can really hammer home the realities of what this disease is like.
Day 5, Thursday 19 September
I arrived at the starting point near the War Memorial just before noon. I managed to get in a few pics and a video before the march to the Hill began, but not many. I have more pics and video on my Facebook page.
The crowd assembling on the lawn following the march, and before the rally began.
They called for nice weather, and we got it. In fact, it was hot as balls.
The resilient Philip Brooks addresses the crowd the day after his seizure. At his side is his companion the lovely Odessa, who survived the deadliest form of brain cancer, glioblastoma, and was able to be with him in Ottawa.
After the rally, it was over to D’arcy McGee’s for a couple cold beers. This is right out front.
Day 6, Friday 20 September
Once again I’m up early and headed to the airport. My flight leaves at 8 am, and I’ll be on a 737 with no entertainment system. At least I have a window seat. I’m able to see Dave, Teresa, and Marj before they board their plane to Saskatchewan. Trina’s plane doesn’t leave until 11.
Wheels up at 0804 EDT. Until next time Ottawa.
Touchdown in Calgary exactly 4 hours later at 1004 MDT.