Monica Paul, an elder from Nazko, keeps time while singing during Overdose Awareness Day ceremonies. Paul shared the story of her grandson, who died because of an overdose. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

CSUN hosts overdose awareness day in Quesnel

Crosses representing the lives lost due to overdose lined front street to mark the sombre occasion

Elders, survivors and users gathered near the Quesnel Riverwalk bridge on Monday, Aug. 31 to remember people lost to overdose, and advocate for action to reduce them.

Monica Paul is an Elder from Nazko. She offered a prayer, then shared her own story of overdose.

Paul’s grandson died from an overdose.

“I’d like to say words about the kids on the street – They need help, big time,” she said, addressing the crowd. “When you see a kid walking down the street with their head down, stop and talk to them… No matter who they are, tell them that you love them with all your heart.”

Paul said her grandson’s final words to her were, ‘I love you grandma.’

“I don’t want to see any more children go like my grandson did,” she said, crying. “I hope there is no mom or grandma who has to go through this anymore. Please, please, I’m asking – I’m begging, try to help those kids off the street.”

Overdose Awareness Day in Quesnel was organized by the Coalition of Substance Users of the North (CSUN). The Founder of CSUN, Charlene Burmeister, also shared at the event.

“We’re facing staggering numbers of overdose incidents and overdose rates,” she said. “It’s really important to recognize that our Indigenous community members are at alarming risk as well. The disproportionate effects on Indigenous people is something we can not ignore.”

Attendees marched up and down Front Street, which was adorned with crosses representing the lives lost to overdose. There was also harm reduction training and distribution.

“I call on our health authority to do better,” Burmeister said. “This unfortunate inertia that we’re stuck in while people continue to die, and there’s lack of action is infuriating.”

“It is unfortunate we have to gather here today in the face of an overdose crisis that has continued to escalate,” Burmeister said. “No tangible action has been taken, both provincially or federally.”

In July, B.C. paramedics responded to more than 2,700 suspected overdose calls – roughly 87 per day. Through six months, 728 people in the province died from an overdose, a drastic increase from 543 during the same period in 2019.

The event was capped off with a flower drop from the riverwalk bridge.

READ MORE: B.C. paramedics responded to a record-breaking 2,700 overdose calls in July

READ MORE: New study calls for new approach to tackling overdose crisis

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