A crowd of family, friends, advocates and allies gathered in front of the Ministry of Health building on Friday afternoon to ‘rage, grieve and love’ after the deadliest month of overdoses in the province.
The rally, hosted by Moms Stop the Harm and the South Island Overdose Response Network, is aiming to draw attention to the ongoing overdose crisis that has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Friday’s event is part of a series of rallies “ramping up” for International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, said Correne Antrobus.
Antrobus, whose daughter has been in active addiction for 11 years, became involved with Moms Stop the Harm about three years ago when she heard an interview with a parent who had just lost their son to an overdose. She and others have been advocating for safe supply, decriminalization and more support services for years.
In June, nearly six people died every day across the province for a total of 175 lives lost due to an overdose.
In the first six months of 2020, B.C. has seen 728 overdose deaths compared to the 543 deaths during the same period last year.
Antrobus speaks to her daughter almost every day “to make sure she’s still alive.” She says the fact her daughter has a roof over her head and a phone have been vital to her well-being.
“Right now, I think she’s quite ingrained in [the lifestyle] and the thought of trying to get help is so overwhelming,” says Antrobus. “When she has asked for help it wasn’t available.”
Antrobus wants to see more rehabilitation facilities on the Island and has suggested the recently vacated Oak Bay Lodge would be a good place for a rehab or detox center.
At least 100 people attended Friday’s rally, banging pots and chanting “decrim now” and “not one more.” Cars driving along Blanshard street were encouraged to honk in support in an effort to get the attention of those inside the Ministry’s building.