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Gathering in Sechelt Aug. 31 to honour those lost to toxic drugs

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. There's a gathering in Hackett Park that day for those affected by the crisis to gather, grieve, honour and connect.
double exposure of boy looking over ocean
Sunshine Coast Community Action Initiative is hosting an event at Hackett Park from 3 to 6 p.m.

The Sunshine Coast Community Action Initiative is marking International Overdose Awareness Day on the Coast Aug. 31 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Sechelt’s Hackett Park to honour the memories of those lost to the toxic drug supply and overdose crisis. 

The public event welcomes those who have lost friends, family, community and those affected by the crisis to gather. “We’re trying to make it a safe space for people to come and network,” says Ciara Knapp, project coordinator of the Sunshine Coast Community Action Team. “But also just have that space where they can come and grieve as well.”

“The idea, also with International Overdose Awareness Day, is putting into perspective that it’s the community members who have passed away,” says Knapp. “This overdose crisis, toxic drug crisis, it’s affecting the community as a whole. It’s affecting neighbours and family members. It’s affecting parents. It’s affecting children. Because people are losing their loved ones. It’s important to make a space for people to connect because losing someone to the overdose crisis can be quite stigmatizing.

“We want them to feel safe and feel comfortable sharing that they’ve lost someone from that because it’s a fast passing,” says Knapp. “It’s not like it’s someone who’s dying from cancer and it’s slow and you know it’s coming.

“It’s harder to navigate so we’re just creating that space. People can also network and share stories and share what’s made it – not easier – but how to help navigate it a bit better.”

The BC Coroner's Service released earlier this month that at least 1,095 British Columbians are believed to have been lost to the toxic drug supply in the first six months of 2022. More than three-quarters of those people were men, and 73 per cent were between the ages of 30 and 59, said a provincial press release. Powell River was among the local health areas with the highest rates of death in the province this year, said the release. 

Wednesday's event is to include speakers, music, local resources, and an intentional space to memorialize those who have been lost, said a press release.

Speakers start at 4 p.m.: “Brian Mackenzie from i2i Peer Support and T.J. Sheehan from Gibsons Recovery Centre will speak about their personal experiences and community responses to the crisis,” it said. “Local musician Jill Shatford and members of the Threshold Choir will sing songs to cradle and uplift our grieving hearts.”

Sunshine Coast Credit Union is sponsoring the event and Strait Coffee and the Lions Club are providing refreshments and snacks.