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Purple Ribbon Campaign marches to raise awareness of opioid crisis: ‘We are losing our people’

Members of the Purple Ribbon Campaign Caravan hold hands while gathering in City Park in Kelowna on Wednesday morning. The goal of two-day campaign is to raise awareness, educate people about addiction.  . Global News

The Purple Ribbon Campaign trekked through the Central Okanagan on Wednesday, with supporters marching across the W.R. Bennett bridge in hopes of highlighting the provincial opioid crisis.

The two-day caravan started in Osoyoos on Tuesday and was scheduled to stop in six Syilx Okanagan communities throughout the valley prior to ending later Wednesday.

The campaign is being organized by the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA).

Members of the Purple Ribbon Campaign Caravan walk across the W.R. Bennett bridge on Wednesday morning. Global News

READ MORE: Okanagan Nation Alliance to host 2-day opioid crisis campaign next week

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In addition to wearing purple, the two dozen or so supporters carried signs, banged drums and chanted while walking across the bridge, from West Kelowna to City Park in Kelowna.

At City Park, one supporter said the campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about addictions.

“It’s a spiritual and energetic march,” said Jennifer Lewis. “The caravan, it’s really about bringing peoples’ hearts and minds together to really share love and talk about the needs of our people.”

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Lewis said “we are losing a battle with overdose crisis in our territory. We are losing our people; we don’t want to lose anyone else. We don’t our families to struggle and suffer alone. We don’t want our moms to cry by themselves.

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“We really want to show people that they are not alone and we’re here with them.”

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According to the ONA, First Nations people are five times more likely than non-First Nations to experience an overdose event.

“We have a disproportionate rate of overdose and overdose deaths in the Okanagan,” said Lewis. “Aboriginal people are disproportionately represented in that.

“We have one of the highest rates of overdose in the province. What we’re dealing with is families who have lost family members who struggle without a lot of support.

“We have people who are ignoring the issue. They ignore the issue because they think it’s an individual issue when it’s a systemic issue. The system created this problem.”

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Lewis added “we have a history of silence and silence kills us. So we want to talk about it. We want to say ‘we don’t have to be ashamed, we don’t have to judge.’ We can just be there for each other.”

The Purple Ribbon Campaign Caravan was slated to wrap up at 6 p.m. in Merritt.