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Prince George families grieve together on International Overdose Awareness Day

The city has lost about 45 people this year to the toxic drug crisis

Prince George families once again came together to grieve their loved ones lost to the overdose crisis as the city marked International Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday at Veterans Plaza.

The event, organized by Moms Stop the Harm and Broken Hearts of Fentanyl, was an opportunity to spread awareness and work toward breaking the stigma of drug use.

According to the BC Coroners Service, 45 people in Prince George have lost their lives from unregulated drugs so far this year.

Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in British Columbia and is second only to cancer in terms of years of lives lost.

“It is sad to say that we are losing our kids at a rapid rate,” said Michelle Miller, one of the organizers, who also lost her 25-year-old son Tanner to toxic drug poisoning.

“Approximately every four days here we lose a child. Too many lives lost in BC, in Prince George, in Canada. These are our kids passing away behind closed doors alone, in rehab centres, and on our streets of Prince George.”

Mayor Simon Yu also addressed the crowd.

“My thoughts first and foremost go to all the families who have lost their kids and as a father of six and grandfather, I cannot imagine the pain, the suffering experience due to drug overdose,” said Yu.

“We as a community we must come together not just on these days like this, to get to know each other, to help each other to make our streets safer to make sure drugs on the street is safe.”

Organizations and service providers were also on site together to raise awareness and provide harm reduction education.

“Over 12,739 people have died since the province announced the crisis in 2016 and we're continuing to lose people at a rapid pace,” said Alexandria West, executive director of Positive Living North.

“The theme for this year's Awareness Day is recognizing those that go unseen. I would like to acknowledge all of those that have lost loved ones to this crisis. Your loved ones mattered and were loved.”

Katt Cadieux, founder of the peer-led group UNDU (Uniting Northern Drug Users Undoing Stigma), said she wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for options like safer supply.

“We need more because there's just not enough accessibility nor availability out there and that we're fighting a war on drugs, we're fighting a war and a race on the toxicity and poisoning of drugs.”

Corrine Woods, a member of Moms Stop the Harm, lost her 22-year-old son Tony to an overdose in January 2018.

“The importance of the event for me is my son struggled with substances from an early age, there was no recognition of the poisonous toxic supply back in 2017,” said Woods, adding that despite there being more awareness of the crisis now, more work needs to be done.

“We really need to push for more. So, people think that because there's more awareness now, or because there's agencies that are out there combating the crisis, that things are slowing down and they're not. We are losing our sons and daughters every day.”

Sasha Molbey started a local support group for families,through Mom’s Stop the Harm called Healing Hearts and attended the event to spread awareness of  resources.

“I lost my 24-year-old son in 2019 and I feel like I’m ready to be supportive to people who are dealing with this. I mean it’s never going to get easier, but I just feel that I am ready to put my energy into helping to support others,” said Molbey, adding that her daughter also helps run the group.

Healing Hearts bereavement support began holding monthly meetings in April and now has about nine members.

Those interested can email for more information, including meeting location details.

A candlelight vigil will also take place at Veteran’s Plaza tonight from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.