It’s been a week and still few details have been released about the three people who died in broad daylight in a central Edmonton park.
But one family is remembering one of the victims, their father.
“I’ve never met anyone that’s had one bad word to say about him,” said Naomi Johnson, the daughter of Clifford Mitchell.
“He was always friendly and funny and we always knew that he loved us.”
Just last week, Johnson, who lives in Victoria, received a call that her 71 year-old father had died.
He was one of three people who died of a suspected overdose.
“I knew that something bad had happened because my sister called me crying,” Johnson said. “Right away I knew that something had happened and she told me it was my dad.”
Johnson said she has been told that the cause of death won’t be known for another six to nine months.
“My dad has been living on the streets and I thought I was prepared for him to go because he does live a high-risk lifestyle, but it still wasn’t easy to hear,” she said.
Jimmy Ali owns the Early Bird Café in central Edmonton and says he knew Mitchell and the other victims for several years. He said they often stopped by and they developed a friendship.
“I can’t see those guys doing illicit drugs, that’s not who they were,” he said.
“Clifford was 71 years old. He didn’t even like taking regular pills, let alone something that was going to do that to him.”
Ali said he believes they were simply buying a joint but instead got something worse.
Elaine Hyshka, an associate professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in public health and addiction, said the overdose epidemic Alberta has been experiencing for the last five years has been driven by highly toxic and illegal drugs.
She said supplies are only getting more toxic while supports are in decline.
Hyshka said she would like to see warnings about the problem from officials as well as a lot more action.
“I think all levels of government need to step up and respond to the overdose epidemic with the same level of enthusiasm and resources as COVID-19,” she said
Johnson said her father will be deeply missed.
“Even if he lived on the street, ‘rough,’ he was still a good guy, and he still has family and friends that love him,” she said.