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Striking purple chalk campaign aims to put B.C.’s toxic drug supply deaths back in spotlight

Striking purple chalk campaign aims to put B.C.’s toxic drug supply deaths back in spotlight

By Elisia Seeber, Native Journalism Initiative ReporterNorth Shore News

Fri., Aug. 27, 20214 min. read

Early Newspaper

Purple chalk markings resembling forensic physique outlines shall be drawn on the pavement outside politicians’ offices in North and West Vancouver this weekend.

Each outline to tag one of the crucial many lives lost to British Columbia’s ongoing opioid crisis.

The stark visual reminder, space to coincide with International Overdose Consciousness Day on Aug. 31, is being led by North Shore members of Moms Stop the Harm (MSTH), a nationwide group that aims to swap failed drug insurance policies and offer toughen to households.

Bereaved North Shore father Matthew Witt shall be one of the crucial members drawing chalk physique images outside politicians’ offices come this Saturday (Aug. 28).

Witt’s son Sebastian had been neat for over a year sooner than he died, after having a relapse at age 20 on May perchance perchance perchance perchance also merely 18, 2015. Witt strongly believes the shame surrounding addiction hindered his son from asking for back when he wished it most.

He shared how his son died after taking a toxic supply of fentanyl in the lead-up to B.C.’s five-year overdose crisis anniversary on April 14, in a expose to imply for coverage swap and to back shake the unfavorable stigma surrounding drug addiction.

Witt is hoping the campaign, ‘We’re Soundless Dying … Raise out you Find out about Us But?’ will back put the crisis back in the spotlight and spark conversations to back minimize the unfavorable stigma which surrounds drugs.

“We apt want to bring extra visibility to the opioid epidemic,” he mentioned.

“It changed into as soon as declared a public neatly being emergency five years in the past, however these are apt words. We want to scrutinize some action, basically a gentle supply of drugs to maintain of us alive in suppose that they’ll glance at therapy alternate concepts afterwards when they’re in a more in-depth whine of mind.

“We are able to’t back somebody if they’re silly.”

Since B.C.’s opioid crisis changed into as soon as declared by Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s faded provincial neatly being officer, in 2016 there cling been bigger than 7,000 illicit drug toxicity deaths. In 2020, toxic drug supply claimed extra lives than ever sooner than in the province’s history, with 1,724 deaths.

Things cling now not improved this year, with a total bunch extra deaths. In May perchance perchance perchance perchance also merely on my own, there had been 160 deaths. That’s bigger than five of us dying per day.

Heartbreaking national records extra emphasizes the severity of the scenario, with 21,174 obvious opioid toxicity deaths between January 2016 and December 2020.

On Aug. 28, Witt and others will begin drawing chalk outlines and placing display camouflage playing cards at North Vancouver-Seymour MLA Susie Chant’s situation of business in Lynn Valley at 11 a.m., sooner than doing the similar at North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma’s and North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson’s offices on Esplanade.

Fellow MSTH member and North Shore resident Jennifer Cooper shall be by Witt’s facet, chalk in hand. The 68-year-extinct is conscious of all to neatly the pain the inability of a member of the family to illicit drugs can space off. Her youthful brother Paul died Dec. 6, 1996, of “an intentional cocaine overdose” on the eve of his 40th birthday.

“That changed into as soon as 25 years in the past, OK, and I silent feel empty because he’s now not with us,” she mentioned.

While her brother did now not die from a toxic supply, Cooper joined MSTH for toughen and to back carry consciousness after watching her talented, spruce, correct-humoured, loving brother strive against for a few years to overcome his addiction and the shame he felt, till it changed into as soon as all too essential for him.

She mentioned this weekend’s campaign changed into as soon as “an opportunity to think concerning the determination of parents that are dying from the poisoned drug supply,” to back educate of us concerning the crisis and to put rigidity on the politicians who can back obtain a disagreement.

“It is the politicians that want to obtain this swap,” Cooper mentioned.

In April, to back address stigma, Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Psychological Smartly being and Addictions, introduced B.C. would formally quiz a federal exemption from Smartly being Canada to decriminalize personal possession of drugs in the province.

While Witt is in favour of the determination, he says action is silent taking too long.

His message to local politicians is, “Let’s salvage the Share 56(1) exemption going.”

“Let’s desire action now and stop putting it off,” he mentioned.

“Via provincewide decriminalization, we are able to minimize the anguish and shame that maintain of us silent about their drug use, and toughen of us to attain out for back.

“I observe that the COVID pandemic has taken a toll on all americans and adjusted everything, that’s utterly obvious, nonetheless it doesn’t mean we are able to’t finish anything concerning the opioid epidemic as neatly.

“It’s killed extra of us than the COVID epidemic, and with any luck we are able to address this with the similar urgency.”

Purple chalk physique outlines are also expected to be drawn at totally different politicians’ offices in Metro Vancouver by totally different MSTH members.

International Overdose Consciousness Day changed into as soon as initiated in 2001 by Sally J Finn at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia. It has grow to be the arena’s largest annual campaign to finish overdose and to endure in mind without stigma these which cling died and to acknowledge the distress of the family and buddies left behind.

MSTH will also be holding a livestream Fb Candlelight Vigil on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 6: 30 p.m. The match shall be an evening of song and words of remembrance featuring guest speakers Lisa Lapointe, B.C. coroner, Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C. representative for young of us and early life, and Leslie McBain, co-founding father of MSTH.

Striking purple chalk campaign aims to put B.C.’s toxic drug supply deaths back in spotlight