Last year, 74 people lost their lives in the North Island due to drug toxicity.
That number has been increasing each year since the province declared a public health emergency due to toxic drug supply.
Aug. 31 marked International Overdose Awareness Day, and Campbell Riverites gathered at Spirit Square to remember their family members, friends, co-workers or loved ones who have passed away due to drug toxicity.
“Every year I come out here and we do this event,” said organizer Gwen Donaldson “And I would really love it if we could stop doing this event and people would stop dying. So I’m having a hard time with that today.”
Shawn Decaire spoke next, saying “This isn’t something to celebrate, because we have to actually tell people that people are dying and it’s something that shouldn’t happen to begin with.
“Because of our economy because of historical trauma, because of colonialism, for whatever the reason being, substance use is something that’s very adamant here in our region,” he said. “And it’s something that is painful for our people. We lose loved ones every day. We detach from our friends, we detach from our family. And it makes it hard to take pride in a community when we know, as one, we can do better.”
After an opening song by Decaire, Donaldson introduced a number of speakers who talked about the work they were doing in the community to help those in need. The speeches were followed by a chance for people to mingle and get information from booths at Spirit Square. At 5 p.m., a memorial event was held, giving people the chance to remember those lost to the toxic drugs in the community.
According to Dr. Erika Kellerhals, there is a six to nine month waiting period for treatment spaces in Campbell River.
A list of resources for people who use drugs can be found at the Community Action Team website.