Parksville residents gather to remember people lost to drug overdoses

Kelly Morris speaks to a crowd gathered in Parksville Community Park on Aug. 29 to remember people who have died from drug overdoses in Oceanside. || Photo by Kevin Forsyth
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Parksville residents gathered in the community park yesterday (Aug. 29) to remember people who have died from drug overdoses. Local band Big Daddy performed and speakers shared their experiences with addiction and recovery.

Kelly Morris, outreach worker, said the donations collected would go to Manna Homeless Society, a non-profit organization that cares for people experiencing homelessness in the Oceanside area.

“They put a lot into the homeless and they’ve been at the forefront of this for many years,” she said. Morris said she does not work for any organization, but she brings people dealing with addiction to her home and gets them to a treatment centre as quickly as she can. 

Jerrold Paetkau, Manna Homeless Society community chaplain, invited the crowd to join him in a few minutes of silence to remember people who have died from overdoses in the area.

“When we hear about the opioid deaths, it’s made to sound as if it’s somebody’s problem. As if it’s somebody that’s doing something wrong, that they’re not part of normal society and that is so wrong. That is so devastating — they’re family,” said Paetkau.

Photo by Kevin Forsyth

Six people died in the Oceanside local health area due to illicit drug toxicity in the first five months of 2021, according to the BC Coroners Service. The area has recorded a death rate of 34.3 per 100,000 people so far this year — the provincial average is 39 illicit drug toxicity deaths per 100,000. 

The BC Coroners Service has recorded 42 illicit drug toxicity deaths in the central Vancouver Island region so far this year.

Manna Homeless Society was established in 2011 as a charitable organization that cares for the well-being of the homeless and the impoverished in Oceanside, including Nanoose Bay, Parksville, Coombs, Whiskey Creek, Qualicum Beach and Qualicum Bay.

Local band Big Daddy performed during a gathering in Parksville Community Park on Aug. 29 to remember people lost to drug overdoses. || Photo by Kevin Forsyth
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