Filmmaker Nick Versteeg is taking on Cowichan’s opioid crisis with a new documentary entitled A Just Society.
It will be shown at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on Thursday night, March 28, starting at 7 p.m.
This film arose from the realization that there is a crisis in our community: one of homelessness, poverty, drug abuse, discarded needles, crime, overdoses and death.
Some folks have great empathy for people who find themselves pushed to the margins of society by drugs; others have the equally strong opinion that the seeming unfortunate are on the street by choice. Parents are concerned about where safe injection sites and shelters are located, while property owners may also be worried about land values. Downtown businesses are frustrated by finding homeless people sleeping on their doorsteps or that their premises have been vandalized.
There’s lots of talk and lots to talk about. A discussion will follow the documentary.
Admission is free but donations to support the services of the CWAV Women’s Shelter will be accepted.
Versteeg said that he stumbled onto this project.
“Two years ago, I had lunch with a producer from Holland and we did a production on Cittaslow, and it came up in conversation that 1,600 people had died of overdose abuses. He asked: In Canada? And I said: Oh, no! In Canada, it’s 4,000. He was completely flabbergasted, said that he was shocked that that kind of thing happens in a country like Canada. I asked how they did it in Holland, and he said: first of all people don’t die on the streets or in their houses. Everybody gets help if you have a substance abuse issue. It doesn’t matter what substance abuse issue you have, you get assistance. We pay for it as taxpayers. We are a society that looks after the people. Then he said: ‘Nick, that’s a documentary’.”
Versteeg and his team got to work.
“We started interviewing about 20 people: people who’ve dealt with substance abuse, and others, and they started telling their stories. It became totally clear to us that the people that were abusing drugs or alcohol all had something traumatic happen to them. It could be either sexual abuse, physical abuse, accident. Anything. You will see one parent in the documentary, whose 18-year-old son got his wisdom teeth out, and got medicine for it. He walked into the room and said: ‘Wow, what they gave me today for it is just unreal!’ After that, the young man fell completely down hill and he’s been eight years on the street.”
Versteeg said that he’s really keen this event reach people who normally wouldn’t come to such a discussion, but who might be attracted to the idea that they will see what’s happening on their own streets, perhaps even involving people they know.
The production is one hour. It starts at 7 p.m.
“There is a surprise when people come in, because they will go through a ‘stigma room’, which is interesting. It’s almost an exhibition that you walk through before you come to the theatre. It’s being done by Stacy Middlemiss, a wonderful woman. She put this exhibition together and it’s worth it to come early to the theatre because there is lots to see. And on the screen when people arrive in the theatre itself, we will have stats. It’s an educational process, too.
“But really for the groups and the people who are involved or live in a dangerous neighbourhood, after the showing, we will have a panel on stage of doctors, health people, and a couple of people that are in the production. The focus will be on: what do we need here in Cowichan. And then there is an open session where people can ask questions.”
Versteeg said he’s been asked: what about the politicians?
“I am making presentations to the CVRD and the school board because I want the politicians to be there. We have reserved a couple of rows for them. We want them to be there and listen.
“The whole plan is to show this in the theatre, with a discussion afterwards. It’s not made for TV. We are planning a showing in Victoria and elsewhere. Anyone who wants a showing can just contact us. Remember Island on the Edge? We showed that 35 times, even on the Lower Mainland with huge discussions afterwards.”