Across the world people recognize August 31st as International Overdose Awareness Day. From Vancouver to Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal and beyond, families, friends, and advocacy groups rally together to remember those who’ve died from drug overdoses. This day may have felt different this year to some—a heightened consciousness of this issue perhaps – as more and more people are dying from overdoses resulting from drug prohibition in Canada, and specifically, overdoses from drugs laced with Fentanyl. Gathering together to pray, reflect, share stories, and stand in silence each year is a way to remember the lives lost, appreciate the lives saved, and pay respects to families and friends that are missing loved ones.
In Hamilton, people pinned memories of those who’ve died to a board displayed at City Hall. In Montréal, people gathered at Émilie-Gamelin Park announcing the event with the message: “Because we don’t want these people to be forgotten, for their loved ones to cope with their loss with respect.” In Vancouver the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) held a march asking attendees to wear black. Their march was complete with a black coffin used to represent the lives lost.
Keeping drugs illicit and unregulated, arresting and caging people, putting peoples’ lives in the hands of the underground drug market, and shaming those who need love, support, and compassion steals people from their communities and families. Acknowledging this day whether publicly or privately is an act of resistance—and it reminds us that there’s still much more yet to be done.