Red ribbons mark drug overdose deaths in poignant Port Alberni display

Each ribbon signifies a person who died in mid Vancouver Island: CAT team

Marilyn Beuckert, a member of Port Alberni’s Community Action Team, hammers the final stake holding red ribbons that represent the 46 people from mid- Vancouver Island who have died of drug overdoses in 2020. The display went up Dec. 4, 2020 in front of the Salvation Army building at Argyle Street and Fourth Avenue. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Marilyn Beuckert, a member of Port Alberni’s Community Action Team, hammers the final stake holding red ribbons that represent the 46 people from mid- Vancouver Island who have died of drug overdoses in 2020. The display went up Dec. 4, 2020 in front of the Salvation Army building at Argyle Street and Fourth Avenue. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

A display of stakes festooned with red ribbons has been installed in front of the Salvation Army building in Port Alberni.

Each ribbon represents a person in mid-Vancouver Island who died of drug toxicity—an overdose—so far this year. There are 46 ribbons.

Marilyn Beuckert and a couple of other members of Port Alberni’s Community Action Team (CAT) who have lived experience with the opioid crisis in B.C. thought a visual representation of how many people have died in 2020 was needed.

“We felt it was an appropriate time to do something that would visually accent how many lives we’ve lost in our area,” said Ron Merk, CAT co-chair.

READ: Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; B.C. drug toxicity continues to increase

The mid-Island is classified as Tofino to Parksville, Duncan to Courtenay but excluding numbers from Nanaimo. If Nanaimo was included, the number would be 83, not including November and December, Merk said.

“When you think about those communities (in the mid-Island region), they’re not that large of communities. To have 46 deaths among those five communities is really, really significant.”

Merk said Island Health will not divulge precisely how many of those drug toxicity deaths have been in Port Alberni, citing privacy reasons. He still believes the red ribbon display quantifies the issue even without knowing how many represent Port Alberni residents.

The display will be up until Dec. 20. Merk wasn’t sure whether CAT team members wanted to carry it into Christmas week. Merk said he expects more ribbons could be added once November and December numbers are made public.

“It’s all being amplified by the pandemic,” he said.



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

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Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Districtopioid deathsopioid epidemicPort Alberni