Heats representing those who have died of drug overdoses were displayed at Maffeo Sutton Park on Thursday at an International Overdose Awareness Day event. (NEWS BULLETIN photo)

International Overdose Awareness Day includes community gathering and vigil

Event intended to promote dialogue and build compassion

The overdose crisis continues to claim lives as advocates hope life-saving change can come.

International Overdose Awareness Day is officially Aug. 31, but is being observed today, Aug. 29, in Nanaimo, where a community gathering was held this afternoon at Maffeo Sutton Park, with a candlelight vigil to follow tonight at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

The community gathering, put on by the Wisteria Community Association and the Nanaimo Community Action Team on the Overdose Crisis, included music, story-sharing and food.

“We are, as a movement, beating the stigma around drug consumption, around mental health, around underlying causes of addiction, living with addiction,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, at Thursday’s gathering.

She said she raises her hands to the people doing the hard work on the front lines, thinks about the people “lost” to the overdose crises, and said she wants to keep talking about the impacts of addiction on families and hear those stories.

“I’m honoured to hear them and to pass them on and to keep the pressure on for real change that protects our community and our community members and keeps this community alive,” she said.

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According to the B.C. Coroner Service, 35 people in Nanaimo died overdose-related deaths in 2018. International Overdose Awareness Day honours those who died, notes an event press release.

“The idea is to promote dialogue among all citizens, even those dismissive of overdose issues, and encourage the building of a kinder, more compassionate community,” the release noes.

Tonight’s candlelight vigil will take place at St. Paul’s from 7-10 p.m.


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