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55 drug overdose deaths in Chilliwack in 2021 made it deadliest year ever

Rally to draw attention to OD crisis, Thursday, Feb. 10, at 9:30 a.m. outside Chilliwack courthouse
Chilliwack saw 55 illicit drug overdose deaths in 2021, almost 50 per cent higher than the two previous worst years that saw 37 in 2018 and 2020. (Black Press)

It was predicted 2021 would be the deadliest year ever for drug overdoses, and the latest BC Coroners Service numbers confirmed it.

More lives were lost to fatal drug overdoses in 2021 in Chilliwack, and across the entire province, than ever before.

The 55 fatalities saw Chilliwack take 10th place in the 15 top townships of injury list in the 2021 report released on Feb. 9. Those were 55 of the total 2,224 deaths recorded across B.C.

To compare 2020 saw 37 toxic drug overdose deaths in Chilliwack, and the same number in 2018.

Thursday morning on Feb. 10, a rally was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. outside the Chilliwack courthouse, 0rganized by the Chilliwack Overdose Prevention Society to draw attention to the ongoing crisis, in solidarity with Moms Stop the Harms.

Dr. Nel Wieman, deputy chief medical officer, First Nations Health Authority, underlined that the 2021 fatalities have devastated the families left behind.

“The number of deaths due to toxic drug poisonings for 2021 translates to devastating losses of First Nations people: daughters and sons, aunties and uncles, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and grandfathers and grandmothers,” Wieman said. “These are people who loved and were loved.”

Since being declared a public health emergency in B.C. six years ago, First Nations people have been over-represented in overdose events and deaths.

“We must change our understanding of the root causes of substance use and addiction, and work together to address the stigmas surrounding toxic drug use and the people who use drugs,” Wiemam added. “We must continue to invest in Indigenous-specific, culturally safe harm-reduction, treatment and recovery services that are accessible, timely and free from discrimination and racism.”

RELATED: Rally in Chilliwack at Five Corners on Feb. 10

RELATED: Pandemic couldn’t slow the number of 2020 fatalities

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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