Scorching hot temperatures didn’t slow down dozens of people marching through Halifax’s streets on Friday, in a sign of solidarity for those who have lost their lives to overdose.
“In remembrance of those mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends,” Cindy MacIssac said, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle of supporters.
From police to health care professionals, the participation of people in Halifax’s event for International Overdose Awareness Day were all unified in their show of support for people mourning the death of someone they’ve lost.
One of those people who braved the heat was 26-year-old Jake Butler.
Overdose Awareness Day is an international event held at the end of every August. In Nova Scotia, 56 people died in 2018 from opioid related overdoses alone.
The federal government has declared a public health crisis in the aftermath of thousands of people dying across the country due to overdose.
Harm reduction is now one of the pillars of the Canadian Drugs and Substances strategy.
Ann Livingston is considered a pioneer of harm reduction services in Canada. She’s been fighting for increased health-care rights for substance users since the 1990s and was part of the group that saw North America’s first supervised injection site open in 2003.
Livingston travelled from Vancouver to participate in Friday’s Halifax event.
“What we need people to do is not use drugs alone because of the shame and the stigma. Say someone’s got some clean time in, they’re with 12-step, they’re not going to tell anyone – they use alone and they’re found dead and a relapse should not be death,” said Ann Livingston, who is considered a pioneer of harm reduction services in Canada.
Halifax will soon be home to the first overdose prevention site (OPS) in Atlantic Canada. The group leading the project is called the HaliFIX Overdose Prevention Society and they’re currently in the process of creating a community advisory committee to address any concerns.
Livingston encourages people to be engaged with the OPS process.
“I think they should give the thing a chance and then they should give feedback as much as they can about any problems they’re having. If there’s no OPS and there’s never going to be an OPS and they oppose them, they’re just going to see more and more people shooting drugs on sidewalks and in alleys behind dumpsters.” she said.
HaliFIX says they’re still in the planning stages but plan to open by September’s end.