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Update: Venue changed for Richmond drug-poisoning victims memorial

A gathering is planned on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the library and cultural centre to commemorate 29 Richmondites who died last year.
Steveston resident Karina Reid has painted purple rocks to commemorate Richmond residents killed by poisoned drugs.

The venue of a memorial for Richmond residents who've died of poisoned drugs or overdoses has been moved from city hall to in front of the library and cultural centre. 

Purple ribbons and painted purple rocks will be put on display at a gathering at 11:30 a.m. as a reminder of the 29 Richmondites who died last year of poisoned drugs.

The date of the gathering was purposely chosen by organizer Debbie Tablotney, chair of the Richmond Board of Education, to coincide with the seven-year anniversary of when the B.C. government declared that the overdose and drug poisoning crisis was a public health emergency.

Tablotney lost her son in December to a drug poisoning,

Despite this public-health declaration in 2016, more than 11,000 people have since died in B.C.

Tablotney is organizing the rally at 11:30 a.m. to bring awareness about community members being lost to the drugs sold on the street that are increasingly tainted with deadly chemicals such as fentanyl, carfentanil and benzodiazepines.

Tablotney will have purple ribbons that can be placed around the library and cultural centre. Purple ribbons are the symbol of Moms Stop the Harm, a group of family members who’ve lost loved ones to drug poisonings.

Furthermore, Steveston resident Karina Reid has painted a purple rock to represent each of the Richmond residents who died in 2022 and these will also be put on display at the memorial on Friday.

Tablotney said she hopes the rally will highlight the lack of services for people struggling with addictions issues, often coupled with mental health issues, as well as the need for more harm reduction measures to keep people using substances alive.

While there are some services available, they can be hard to find both for those struggling with addictions as well as loved ones trying to help them.

“The grief and chaos families go through (to find services) - it has to be easier to find help,” Tablotney told the Richmond News.

Services should include more harm reduction measures in Richmond including drug testing kits, treatment and mental-health support that’s “accessible and promoted.”

While Tablotney agrees with the newly introduced policy of not criminally charging anyone in possession of small amounts of drugs, the next step should be pointing them in the right direction to get help, she explained.

And, on top of that, she said,  there should be a safe supply of drugs to keep addicts alive as long as they’re using.

“They shouldn’t have to die because they’re addicted,” she said.

In 2022, across the province, 2,293 people died of drug toxicity, which equated to 6.4 deaths every day. This was down just slightly from 2021, the peak year of drug poisoning deaths in the province when 2,310 people died.

In 2013, the provincial death toll in B.C. was 334.

The gathering will take place on Friday, April 14 at 11:30 a.m. in front of the Richmond Library and Cultural Centre at 7700 Minoru Gate.