This International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) August 31, Island Health is hosting a digital memory wall to honour those lost to a toxic drug poisoning. IOAD is the world's largest annual campaign to end overdose, and this online memorial encourages everyone to remember, without stigma, those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of family, friends and caregivers left behind.
This digital memory wall is live now, allowing people to share memories, special words, and photos to honour and remember people tragically claimed by unregulated substances. The memory wall will be available for one month, closing September 30. Sharing stories can trigger painful feelings but may help some people express their grief and loss.
“While the toxic drug crisis is relentless, it’s important to take time to celebrate the lives of each and every one of the people lost, to honour them, and, to help support each other,” said Dr. Réka Gustafson, vice president, Population and Public Health and chief medical health officer. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has suffered loss from unregulated substances and to the tireless healthcare and community workers who continue to support, educate and treat hundreds of people every month.”
There are also many in-person events to join across the island August 31, hosted by multiple community groups and individuals, some of which include:
- Campbell River – Spirit Square 3-5 p.m. education stations, speakers, candlelight vigil from 5-7 p.m. Hosted by the Campbell River Community Action Team.
- Courtenay - Comox Valley Simms Millennium Park, 12 noon–4 p.m. Hosted by Comox Community Action Team in partnership with Unbroken Chain, Indigenous Women's Sharing Society, and Moms Stop the Harm.
- Crofton – Crofton Park, 7 p.m. A Walk for J, hosted by a private individual as a public event.
- Duncan – Cowichan Tribes Si’em' Lelum Gymnasium soccer field, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dancers, drummers, BBQ, art, naloxone training, Kona Ice. Hosted by Cowichan Tribes.
- Ladysmith – Ladysmith Shelter (behind Rialto Apartments), 11 a.m. Info, resources, naloxone info, snacks. Hosted by Ladysmith Shelter.
- Nanaimo – Maffeo Sutton Park, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Meal sharing, speakers, grief-loss art therapy vigil. Opening by Snuneymuxw Elder Lolly Good, closing song from Patrick Aleck. Hosted by the Nanaimo Community Action Team.
- Parksville - Parksville Community Centre, 1-5 p.m., candlelight vigil at Community Park picnic shelter at 7 p.m. Hosted by the Oceanside Community Action Team.
- Port Alberni – Echo Centre, 12 noon-6 p.m. Q&A & keynote with Guy Felicella 3-6 p.m. Hosted by the Port Alberni Community Action Team.
- Salt Spring Island – Centennial Park, 2-5 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring a loved one’s photo. Hosted by Moms Stop the Harm and Island Community Services.
- Sooke – Evergreen Mall in town centre, 5-9 p.m. Live music, naloxone training, speakers, candlelight memorial. Hosted by Moms Stop the Harm.
- Victoria – First Metropolitan United Church, 932 Balmoral Road 7-9 p.m. Hosted by First Metropolitan United Church.
“Stories are important. They help us remember the people, places and moments that mean the most to us and allow people to share those memories with others,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “While we continue to work together to save lives to turn the tide of the toxic drug crisis, we also need to honour the people, families and front line workers affected by it.”
Toxic drug poisonings statistics
- 235 people have died in Island Health this year so far (as of June 30, 2023).
- Greater Victoria is one of the top three B.C. townships with the highest number of unregulated drug deaths in 2023, along with Surrey and Vancouver.
- Central and North Vancouver Island have some of the highest toxic drug poisonings rates in B.C. relative to the health service delivery and local health areas.
International Overdose Awareness Day may be difficult for some. Mental health and substance use and grief services and supports are available. Island Health residents may call the Mental Health and Substance Use Service Link at 1-888-885-8824, to learn about supports that best meet their needs.
Information and services: