Photos of camping and fishing trips are all Andrew Thomas has left to remember the good times with his oldest daughter.
Twelve-year-old Allayah Thomas died April 14 in Langford from a suspected opioid overdose — an incident that is currently under investigation by West Shore RCMP.
Thomas, who lives near Calgary, says he warned her about the poisonous drug supply during a phone call just a week before her death.
“I was like do not ever touch that stuff because it’ll take your life, it’ll kill you,” Thomas said.
He last saw Ally when she and her younger sister came to visit him in Alberta in October. He says he drove to Victoria to pick them up and back just so they could spend time together.
He says he only learned a few months later that she was using drugs.
At that time he says he appealed to the B.C. Ministry of Children and Families to have her sent to live with him, something he says she wanted as well.
“She wanted out of there, she wanted out of that lifestyle, she wanted to get away from all the drugs and away from all of the people because unfortunately once you get into that lifestyle it’s very very hard to get out of it,” said Thomas, who himself went to treatment three years ago for methamphetamine addiction.
Ally’s grandparents, who she lived with in Saanich, say the little girl overdosed three times, previously having ended up at Victoria General Hospital from substance abuse.
READ MORE: ‘Enough meetings’: Growing calls for action after 12-year-old Saanich girl dies from overdose
After days of silence, on Friday the province acknowledged the tragedy and admitted more work is needed.
“It is a tragic loss, I can only imagine that her friends and her family are in shock,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
“That there was someone as young as age 12 is shocking and again this is a terrible story that just restrengthens our commitment as a government to build the kind of addictions and mental health care system that anybody can access,” Malcolmson added.
READ MORE: ‘Like a ray of sunshine’: Another child dies from suspected overdose on Vancouver Island
Andrew Thomas says Ally would have had better access to treatment in Alberta where they have beds available for kids 12 and older, something the family was told isn’t an option in B.C.
Alberta also has a system in place, as a last resort, to take kids who don’t want help, into a safe house for up to 15 days to stabilize and detox.
It’s what some are pushing for here in B.C. and today Malcolmson said it isn’t off the table.
“I hear from families that say that doing some kind of involuntary admission to hospital after an overdose is something that can save lives, and I believe that too,” she said.
Allayah’s father says now that his little girl is gone, he wants to do whatever it takes to make sure no other family has to experience this grief.
He hopes to see more youth treatment beds added in B.C. for younger kids and changes in the Ministry of Children and Families that would have allowed his daughter to come to Alberta, and possibly save her life.