The presentation will be different, but the message and sentiment will be as strong as ever when Victorians mark International Overdose Awareness Day.
Local members of Moms Stop the Harm, supported by the South Island Community Overdose Response Network, are hosting a candlelight vigil of remembrance live on Facebook at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31, in place of the regular public gathering, due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.
Leslie McBain, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, lost her son Jordan Miller in 2014 after he became addicted to the painkiller oxycodone. Not only is the vigil an important way to remember and honour friends and loved ones who died from overdose – a preventable cause, McBain says – it’s a way to share people’s stories and raise further awareness of this public health emergency.
“It is a health care issue and should be treated as such,” she says. More work needs to be done, she adds, to convince the province to support the idea that people with a drug addiction have a health condition.
The candlelight vigil will be broadcast from the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, with attendance limited to about 25 people, McBain says. Guests speakers include provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, McBain, Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto and others, and music will be provided by Jill Cooper and Meridian.
In downtown Victoria, people who have been impacted by the opioid crisis gathered earlier this month to tie purple ribbons of remembrance with posters and cards around power poles on Douglas Street and trees on Government Street. The idea is to encourage people to keep the topic in mind and remind the public to check out the event online. Some people included photos of loved ones who died from an overdose.
“Almost everyone you meet has somebody they know who died; a friend or relative. It’s hard to bump into people who don’t have some kind of experience with it,” McBain says. “When I get a chance to talk to someone who thinks that people that are addicted are somehow lesser than, if I can spend 15 minutes with them I can usually convince them that this could happen to anyone and could be anyone’s child or parent.”
Among the ways the event is being marked include lighting up in purple the B.C. legislature and the Robert Bateman Centre building on the harbour. The City of Victoria is hanging a banner across Douglas Street, flying the International Overdose Awareness Day flag at half mast between Aug. 28 and 31, and making an official proclamation of the day. Also, the message “Overdose Can Happen to Anyone” is running on an electronic message board on the West Shore.
People are also being asked to share photos of their own purple ribbons at facebook.com/groups/PurpleRibbonForOverdoseAwareness. To find out more about the event and related activities, visit overdoseday.com/victoria or momsstoptheharm.com.