Participants are encouraged to light a candle and watch the streamed event from home as speakers honor the lives of those lost to overdose from Gyro Bandshell in Penticton April 14, 2021. (Facebook photo)

Participants are encouraged to light a candle and watch the streamed event from home as speakers honor the lives of those lost to overdose from Gyro Bandshell in Penticton April 14, 2021. (Facebook photo)

Vigil for 5th anniversary of B.C. overdose crisis to be held in Penticton

To honor the lives lost to the overdose crisis and bring a call of action to policymakers

April 14, 2021 will mark five years since B.C. declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act due to the significant rise in opioid-related overdose deaths.

Since then the overdose crisis has claimed the lives of thousands of British Columbians.

In 2020, the deadliest year for overdoses on record, 1,716 people in the province lost their lives due to illicit drug use.

A group of Pentictonites will come together for a virtual vigil April 14 to mourn those lost to the overdose crisis and speak about what has been happening over the past five years and what needs to change moving forward.

The event is being held by Penticton and Area Overdose Prevention Society in collaboration with Moms Stop the Harm South Okanagan. Anyone is invited to watch the streamed event from home.

However, due to the pandemic, only 10 speakers will be in attendance at Gyro Park. Between each live speaker pre-recorded video will be played that was sent in by people who want to share their experiences.

Desiree Franz, a co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society, said the main focus of the vigil will be not only to honor the people lost to the overdose crisis but also bring a call of action to local and provincial government.

“Yes there’s been (drug policy) improvements but it’s obviously not enough because people are still dying at an alarming rate,” Franz said.

Prior to the vigil, people are encouraged to print out images or messages for loved ones to display on the Bandshell at Gyro Park. The theme colour is purple in alignment with international Overdose Awareness colours.

2020 was the deadliest year on record of B.C.’s overdose crisis, in large part due to the drug supply becoming more toxic during the pandemic.

Franz said she would like to see governments take the overdose crisis as seriously as they have taken the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s really disheartening because once they declared a health emergency we saw how quickly they mobilized for the COVID response,” Franz said. “… The only variable I can think of is that it’s different people who are dying.”

More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page, Vigil for 5 Year Anniversary of BC’s Public Health Overdose Emergency.

READ MORE: Penticton overdose calls see drastic increase in 2020

READ MORE: With 1,716 deaths, 2020 deadliest year of overdose crisis in B.C. history

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