Emotional demonstration marks National Day of Action on overdose deaths

The overdose crisis is our crisis



There’s an overdose crisis in Canada – more than 10,000 people have died of opioid-related overdoses since 2017. But the Ford government has blithely turned the other way, forcing the probable closure of six safe consumption sites province-wide – and making it more likely that even more people will die. 

Hundreds touched by the deaths of friends and family members showed up at Queen’s Park last Tuesday (April 16) as part of We Still Grieve: Toronto’s National Day of Action on the overdose crisis.

After a smudging ceremony and words by frontline harm reduction worker Zoë Dodd, the group marched south on University stopping at Queen to lie down in a mock die-in in the middle of the street. They lay there for several minutes stopping traffic. Onlookers stood frozen by the display. The needless deaths of others humbles us.

Speeches continued on the sidewalk a short time later. A physician spoke about her frustration with “racist and classist” attitudes towards drug users. We must help heal those in pain, she said, even if they choose to use drugs.

Others told stories about loved ones lost too soon and the need to treat drug use as a public health issue. An emotional drum performance and lighting of colourful smoke flares marked the end of the demonstration.

Many hugged, others cried. A few left their signs on the sidewalk or wrapped them around nearby poles before they left to signify to passersby that there’s much work left to do to protect the vulnerable. The overdose crisis is our crisis.

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Paul Salvatori

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Paul Salvatori

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Paul Salvatori

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Paul Salvatori

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Paul Salvatori

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Paul Salvatori

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Paul Salvatori

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Paul Salvatori

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@nowtoronto

Updated April 24, 10:33 am: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of consumption sites slated to close. 

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