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.
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.
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