Kitchener residents honour the lives lost from drug overdoses

Families, friends, and fellow community members met in Kitchener on Tuesday to honour those who died from substance overdoses.

The event coincides with International Overdose Awareness Day.

Locals gathered by the Victoria Park Bell Tower for a day of mourning, and to learn how to administer naloxone to someone suffering from a potential reaction.

More than 370 remembrance markings were erected across the park to symbolize each life that was lost due to suspected overdoses in the Waterloo Region since 2017. Sixty-one have died in 2021 alone.

"All we can do is remember them and remember the love that they brought and the resilience that they taught us every day and hope that we can do something to stop this," said volunteer Kate Fraser.

In a media release, organizers say they want the city to deploy several new initiatives to ensure the safety of those struggling with substance abuse, including implementing a consumption and treatment site in Cambridge, and establishing overdose prevention sites.

Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry was at the vigil on Tuesday evening and said she hears the calls for a CTS site. She said the sites in Kitchener and Guelph show the positive impact they can have in the community.

“We’re hearing the good stories of people that have come in, built trusting relationships and been able to move forward in their journey with the wraparound services,” she said.

"We're also here because we want it to stop," Fraser said. "We want a safer supply of substances for our folks so they can get healthy and use safely."

The Waterloo Region Overdose Monitoring Report shows there have been 126 naloxone administrations so far this year. In all of 2020, there were 110.

"We're just trying to make sure the people are aware of how much of a problem it is in the region and we're trying to improve things," said Norman Haller with the Canadian Addiction Treatment Pharmacy and Opioid Addiction Treatment Clinics, Kitchener Region.