I read the article on how Victoria recorded 85 overdose deaths last year. Unfortunately this did not surprise me, but I did make a sad connection. Over the holidays, I watched on TV the town of Humboldt grieve together over the bus crash that killed or injured young athletes and their coach. It was a public ceremony to allow all to grieve together. It was an acknowledgement of the loss from the whole community and from ourselves.
I am sad that those who’ve lost their brothers, sisters, daughters, friends, cousins to a tragic overdose are not offered the same public acknowledgement of their loss.
The difference is stark and unfair. The loss of a loved one is the loss of a loved one. Yet those who grieve for those deaths do not receive a community grieving process.
When we have this health crisis, this epidemic of overdose, we could grieve in Victoria, Vancouver and communities across the province where people are dying, most of them alone, as a result of an unsafe drug supply. It’s clear now that no matter how many extra police are hired, we cannot stop the poisoning. As noted, statistics say that fentanyl is the cause in 85 per cent of the illicit drug overdose deaths and six out 10 are in private residences. Equally challenging are the many who, although resuscitated with naloxone, are brain damaged and require long-term care.
Mountains of recent research from the Centre for Substance Control, mental health officers both in Canada and abroad are clear: We need a safe supply to stop the deaths and allow people the stability to seek the variety of appropriate help needed.
I want our combined governments to facilitate public grieving and to stop this epidemic of deaths by immediately providing a safe drug supply. The saving in health costs alone make this a viable option. But more importantly it’s a matter of human compassion.