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International Overdose Awareness Day: Remembering the 'Flash' actor and other victims

On International Overdose Awareness Day, Burnaby residents gather at neighbourhood church to hold a vigil and remember the lives lost to drug overdoses in B.C.

"My son wasn't a number. His life mattered."

Marlyse Williams aches for the16-year-old boy she lost to drug overdose in April 2020.

Two years later, she stands in front of a large gathering on International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) advocating for the lives which could still be saved from the toxic drug crisis in B.C.

Logan Williams, a promising actor, notably known as the young Barry Allen from the CW series "The Flash," was one of the many victims of toxic drug overdose in the community.

Aug. 31 is observed as International Overdose Awareness Day. People across the country come together to honour the lives lost to the crisis and raise awareness about the need for action to tackle the problem.

B.C. has lost over 1,095 lives to illicit substance abuse in the first half of 2022 alone.

In Burnaby, members of the community gathered in the neighbourhood to hold a vigil for their loved ones who were lost to an overdose or are suffering from addiction.

Pleading with the government to "not let loved ones become statistics and numbers," parents, siblings, friends and families of the victims are seeking immediate action against the crisis.

"There was no help for Logan," Marlyse Williams said. "There was a three-month waiting period for a counsellor. They said it was 'normal' and as a parent I was overreacting."

"There were two youth centres here, and we were told that Logan was not "bad enough" to require treatment, so we spent over US$120,000 to get help from the neighbours across the border, and in 10 months he improved," she said.
"However, we did not have the money to continue, so we came back to Canada. In eight weeks, Logan relapsed and we lost him. He was 16 years old."

The Burnaby Community Action Team's coordinator, Dilpreet Thiara, said that there are not enough services in Burnaby to treat addiction.

"It could be anyone's loved one," she said. "There are no treatment and detox facilities in Burnaby, and we need more education and support for our youth."

MLA Katrina Chen said providing support, and breaking the silence, is vital.

"It is the stigma that kills people," said Chen, who is seeking federal government's support to tackle the toxic drug addiction crisis. 

Momsstoptheharm, a network of Canadian families impacted by substance-use-related harm and deaths, encourages community members to paint an empty chair purple and put in out in backyards and gardens in remembrance of loved ones lost and struggling.

An art exhibition is on display in the Burnaby Tommy Douglas Public Library until the end of the weekend, featuring artwork aimed at raising awareness about stigmatization.

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