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Travis Lupick wins George Ryga Award; draws awareness to overdose epidemic

Georgia Straight journalist Travis Lupick has won the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature for his book Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction, published by Arsenal Pulp Press.

Lupick released a statement expressing his hope that the award will encourage further discussion of Canada’s overdose epidemic. “I worry that public attention is beginning to wane, or that a feeling of hopelessness is leading people to block the crisis from their minds. But the number of death remains higher than ever. In 1998, the worst year of the overdose crisis that’s recounted in Fighting for Space, there were 400 drug- overdose deaths across B.C. It was a number so high that in response, Vancouver revolutionized how it responds to addiction. In 2017, there were 1,436 fatal overdoses across B.C. Something needs to change, and radically so.

“We need new ideas. We need to begin talking about legalizing and regulating illicit narcotics. I don’t know if any measure less will bring the numbers back under control.”

Lupick will be speaking about Fighting for Space in Montreal (March 14), Ottawa (March 16), and Toronto (March 19), three cities that he says are also experiencing increases in fatal overdoses. “It’s my hope that these events will help these cities learn from Vancouver’s successes as well as from its mistakes.”

The George Ryga Award will be presented at a ceremony at the Vancouver Public Library on June 28.