Last year’s overdose awareness day featured a display of white crosses with blue ribbons on Front Street as a memorial to people who have died due to overdose. Lindsay Chung photo

Quesnel hosting overdose awareness day

Charlene Burmeister, the founder of CSUN, is calling for action in the face of the overdose crisis

Emergency crews were called to 120 suspected overdoses in Quesnel in 2019, according to BC Emergency Health Services.

In 2020, the community has already passed that number. In July alone, crews were called to 31 overdoses.

On Monday, Aug. 31, the Coalition of Substance Users of the North (CSUN) will be hosting an overdose awareness day, from 2 – 6 p.m., near the walking bridge in downtown Quesnel.

For Charlene Burmeister, the founder and executive director of CSUN, awareness isn’t enough. The annual event is a reminder of what could have been in the past year.

“For me, it’s another year of epic failures,” she said. “Every morning I wake up and wonder which one of my colleagues, friends or allies is now dead. I’ve been in the presence of my dead friends from overdose, I’ve had to reverse overdose.”

She draws on her own experiences with addictions to advocate for solutions.

“The issue is prohibition and the war on drugs which is really equated to a war on people,” she said. “This is why we are where we are today – because of prohibition. And we saw much of the same in prohibition around alcohol.”

Burmeister compared current street drugs cut with stronger drugs like fentanyl, to stronger alcohol that was sold during prohibition to be watered down.

“I am just dumbfounded that we as a population, for the most part, truly feel that drugs are bad and the people that use drugs are bad. The ideology is just insane.”

Statistics Canada releases a survey on drug use every two years. While a 2019 report is yet to be released, the 2017 survey reported 15 per cent of Canadians admitted to using illegal drugs.

Burmeister agrees that overdose numbers are going up, noting that some overdoses are not reported.

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

“Everybody is at risk in this overdose crisis, no matter what substance they’re consuming,” she said. “Decriminalization and access to safe supply is a human rights issue. The present inertia of the overdose crisis, as far as I’m concerned, is government supported genocide.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has played a role, both in disrupting the distribution of traditional drugs and isolating people away from support.

“We know the opposite of addiction is connection,” Burmeister said. “There’s a lot of problematic stuff that is arising in the face of COVID-19. The landscape is changing and not for the better.”

Burmeister called herself cautiously optimistic at every step of her life.

“The motivation to do the work is clear and present finally,” she said. “There is a bit of light at the end of our tunnel as far as Northern Health’s response to this current crisis.”

While Burmiester finds some reason for celebration, the annual awareness day event is a sad event.

The event itself will also have COVID-19 precautions, including hand sanitizer and markings to ensure physical distancing.

The overdose awareness day event will have an open mic, naloxone education and a mock overdose event.

The event will feature a memorial flower drop just after 5 p.m. on the walking bridge.

Burmiester hopes the event will spur some tangible change.

“You talk, we die,” she said.

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

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


@GimliJetsMan
cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

B.C. overdosesoverdose crisisstreet drugs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC VOTES 2020: Voter registration closes Saturday, Sept. 26

Voters can still register or update their information when they vote, but it will take longer

“I should be in school” — Quesnel alternate school students protest classroom removals

McNaughton Centre students took to the streets to protest on Sept. 24

Quesnel council eager to work with Barkerville Gold Mines

Councillors recently heard an update on the Cariboo Gold Project proposed underground mine

VIDEO: Cariboo-Chilcotin rally aims to stop antlerless moose hunt

Cow Moose Sign Project supported by First Nations, guide outfitters, ranchers

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

Most Read