(International Overdose Awareness Day flag at Victoria City Hall/City of Victoria—YouTube)

Several landmarks in Victoria and across British Columbia will be lit up in purple to commemorate the annual International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31.

This year is on track to recording the highest ever number of illicit toxic drug overdose deaths B.C. has seen, with over 900 deaths in just the first seven months of 2020.

See also: 175 people died of illicit toxic drug overdose in B.C. in July 2020

For the past three months straight, the province has recorded over 170 overdose related deaths per month.

“Since January, 909 lives have been lost to an illegal drug supply that is more toxic than it has ever been in British Columbia. The unintended consequences of COVID-19 measures have been particularly hard on people who use drugs,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in a statement on Monday.

“Many are facing isolation and loneliness, disconnection from usual in-person supports, financial strain and mental-health challenges—all contributing to unprecedented levels of stress and pain.”

In light of the dual epidemic facing B.C., the province announced that several landmarks will be lit in purple to commemorate the lives of those who have died and those who are struggling with drug addiction and the mental health challenges that come with it.

Darcy says August 31 is also a day to recognize family members, peer-support workers, harm-reduction workers, addiction and recovery workers, front-line community workers, ambulance paramedics, police, and firefighters who have been on the front lines of the opioid epidemic for years.

In Victoria, the International Overdose Awareness Day flag was raised Monday morning at City Hall and will be flown until Tuesday, September 1.

The municipal building will also join the Steamship Terminal building, and the BC Legislature Building’s front entrance and fountains in being lit up in purple.

Other landmarks across the province that will also feature the colour purple on August 31 are:

  • BC Place (Vancouver)
  • White Rock Pier (White Rock)
  • City Halls (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody
  • Royal Inland Hospital lighted walkway (Kamloops)
  • Various city lights (Kelowna)

“International Overdose Awareness Day is a day to remember that the overdose crisis touches each one of us. It is a day when we say loudly and clearly that addiction is not a moral failing,” adds Darcy.

“It is a health issue that should be treated like any other health issue—with consideration, caring and respect.”