Hundreds marched in the streets of Vancouver on Tuesday to mark the National Day of Action to End the Overdose Epidemic.
Participants say the epidemic has reached “unprecedented levels” and they’re demanding all levels of government improve drug policies.
An Orchard of Love
Smith says participants had an eagle feather representing each life lost.
“Eagles take our prayers highest to the Creator, so we want our best prayers for so many who have been lost.”
White, black, yellow and red ribbons we’re tied on the feathers, “to be inclusive of all four races.”
“I just want some healing in this community and for them to have a voice. To say we matter, we live.”
Smith says he will never stop fighting for those who have lost their lives.
“Stand-up and take notice that we matter and our lives matter.”
Organizers say the crisis continues to worsen and that someone dies every six hours due to an opioid overdose.
‘It’s an illness not a weakness’
Gordon Vaters has been struggling with addiction for the majority of his life.
He says trauma can insinuate addiction and that “really good people” are being stigmatized.
“It really hurts me when I see people putting addicts and users down, I get really uptight and I tell them man why don’t you find out their story before you start calling them weak and lazy, it just pisses me right off.”
After ten years of sobriety, Vaters says he was pulled back into addiction to bury the pain of losing his wife.
“When I saw my dad drinking he seemed to have a power about him and that’s what I wanted to be… it seemed like alcohol gave me power.”
Vaters is a part of the Alexander Street Community Centre, along with former Insite Vancouver employee Rebekka Regan.
— Koy Tayler (@koytayler99) February 21, 2017
Regan says Health Canada and cities across the country need to support similar treatment facilities because they can be the only places where addicts feel safe.
“I think it’s fairly important to understand that sites like Insite actually encourage peoples connection to health care and in the time I was there people had been marginalized to such an extreme that, that was the only health care they were accessing.”
Regan says tools and resources should be more readily available now than ever.
All of the feathers from the march will remain in the trees at Oppenheimer Park until Friday.
With files from Koy Tayler