The REDUN tree in downtown Trail is by the Family Statue on Victoria Street just before the bridge. Photo: Submitted

The REDUN tree in downtown Trail is by the Family Statue on Victoria Street just before the bridge. Photo: Submitted

Christmas tree reflects on 1,548 B.C. lives lost to overdose in 2020

West Kootenay members of REDUN join groups across the province this week in putting up Christmas trees, decorated with love to memorialize family and friends who are not with us this holiday season.

COVID-19 has proven to exacerbate the ongoing opioid epidemic, with 2020 seeing unprecedented overdose fatalities across the country.

A toxic drug supply and isolation is a dangerous combination.

Thousands of Canadian families will be grieving lost loved ones this holiday season.

“We have lost too many to the drug war and hope this memorial will raise awareness,” says West Kootenay REDUN. “We need your help to end the overdose crisis. Join us in demanding that the federal and provincial governments in Canada take immediate action to end the war on people who use drugs by implementing safe supply, decriminalizing personal possession, and improving access to evidence-based treatment options,” the group said.

“We invite you to add an ornament to the tree located across the street from the Trail Memorial Centre to commemorate those lost to overdose.”

REDUN asks all who hang ornaments, or pause for reflection at the tree, to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet/two metres.

“Recognizing that the holiday season can be a difficult time for many, we strongly encourage everyone to stay safe,” REDUN advises. “Get your drugs checked. Carry Naloxone. Do not use alone. Check on your friends in recovery. Reach out if you need support.”

An average of five people die of overdose every day in B.C., most as a result of using alone.

The Kootenay Boundary region has seen 16 suspected drug toxicity deaths to date this year, 11 of those attributed to fentanyl.

This number is nearing the highest number of overdose deaths recorded in the Kootenay Boundary since 2017. That year, 17 people died of overdose.

Provincially, overdose has claimed the lives of 1,548 British Columbians in 2020 so far – 153 of those in November.

“Tragically as we end 2020, our province is facing a record-breaking number for lives lost due to a toxic illicit drug supply,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “In the five years of this public health emergency, more than 6,500 families have experienced the grief and sadness of losing a loved one to the challenging medical condition of drug addiction. I extend my sincere condolences to all of those grieving a family member, friend or colleague due to this disease.”

REDUN (Rural Empowered Drug Users Network) provides peer-to-peer support, education and advocacy by and for people with lived or living experience of illicit substance use in the Kootenay Boundary region.

opioid epidemic