On Thursday, Nanaimo’s community action initiative team hosted an event on International Overdose Awareness Day to remember loved ones and advocated for change.
Newly voted chair of the organization, Sarah Lovegrove, wants Thursday’s event to be a message of urgency to politicians to act immediately on the drug crisis.
Staggering illicit drug death numbers from the B.C Coroners Office were released just two days before International Overdose Awareness Day.
This year has been grim one for fatal overdoses in Nanaimo. According to the report, 76 people died in the first seven months of this year. This is nearly as many lives lost in all of 2022 when 77 people died from illicit drugs in Nanaimo.
“We want politicians to understand that every single overdose death is a policy failure and that means that due to the inaction on harmful policies that are currently existing in our system at all levels of government, those are the reasons why people are dying,” said Lovegrove.
Nanaimo City councillor Paul Manly was at the event Thursday remembering his own friend who died from toxic drugs. Manly says that the city is trying to expedite solutions to deal with the crisis.
“We’ve actively been working with BC Housing and the province to get more subsidized housing in the community, but also supportive housing with wrap-around services to help people with challenges with mental health and addiction,” said Manly.
Many people who stated that they were addicted or actively addicted to drugs were in attendance to share their stories of triumph as well as heartbreak. Harm reduction advocate Qui Sepulveda was at the event to help fight the stigma associated with drug use.
“I am 23 years old and I am sick of losing the people that I love. If I am worthy of dignity and respect when I am using drugs because you don’t know it, then I was worthy the whole time,” said Speulveda.
The coordinator for Nanaimo Action Initiative, Serena Klaver, really wants the public to set their opinions aside and take the time to be open to the solutions they are suggesting to help fix the crises.
“I think we can be a lot more compassionate, a lot more kind and even if we have strong opposition lenses to other people’s decisions and actions, we can just hear a little bit better,” said Klaver
Organizers hope that the event encourages people to open their minds and hearts about the tragic reality taking place in Nanaimo and across the country.