Kat Wahamaa marched downtown Vancouver to mark the fifth anniversary of the opioid crisis in B.C. She lost her own son to a fentanyl overdose in 2016. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

Kat Wahamaa marched downtown Vancouver to mark the fifth anniversary of the opioid crisis in B.C. She lost her own son to a fentanyl overdose in 2016. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

Mothers mark opioid anniversary with march in Vancouver

Former City of Maple Ridge artist-in-residence and Maple Ridge homeless advocate mourn loss of children

A five year anniversary took place on Wednesday, but it was one not to be celebrated.

Wednesday marked the fifth year of the opioid crisis in the province, and the BC Coroners Service reports, during that time at least 7,072 British Columbians lost their lives to illicit drugs.

That statistic includes Kat Wahamaa’s son and Tracey Scott’s daughter.

Wahamaa, a former City of Maple Ridge artist-in-residence, and Scott, who was once an advocate and voice for the Anita Place Camp in Maple Ridge, marched downtown Vancouver to mark the grim milestone. They are both members of Moms Stop the Harm: a network of families across the country who have been impacted by substance-use and who want to see harm reduction measures put into place including the decriminalization of illicit drugs.

Wahamaa lost her son, Joseph, at the age of 25 to a fentanyl overdose in 2016.

READ MORE: Lives lost too soon to fentanyl

“As with a health emergency like COVID, we need the same kind of roll-out and the same use of public health units, or whatever mechanism, to make sure that clean, pharmaceutical-grade drugs are available to people so that they are not accessing an illicit supply that’s killing them,” said Wahamaa.

“It’s black and white. It’s extremely simple,” she said.

The former Maple Ridge resident, now living in Lake Errock, is pleased that some strides were made over the last five years, like in September last year when provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that physicians and nurse practitioners would have the ability to prescribe safe alternatives to stop users from turning to the toxic drug supply on the streets.

READ MORE: Former health officials, advocates reflect on anniversary of B.C.’s overdose emergency

However, it’s not enough, said Wahamaa.

“The problem is the ability to prescribe is out there, but the prescribers are not prescribing. So that’s a problem,” she noted.

And, added Wahamaa, the government is not making fast enough progress towards decriminalization.

“It is a lack of political will. If this a real health emergency then let’s treat it as such,” said the mother.

Both Wahamaa and Scott joined other members of Moms Stop the Harm and members of Drug User Liberation Front in the march through the Downtown East Side.

In a release on Wednesday, Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner with BC Coroners Service, extended her condolences to anyone in the province who lost a loved one to illicit drugs.

“The tragic loss of these thousands of individuals underlines the urgent need for a substantial shift in our provincial and national response to problematic substance use,” said Lapointe.

The public health emergency was first declared by then-provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, on April 14, 2016.

Since then, according to the report, the province has continually set new records for illicit drug toxicity deaths.

• Health experts caution people to use in a safe place with a friend or family member close by. However, for those that are going to use alone, Lifeguard app on a mobile phone will contact emergency services if they start overdosing. For more information go to lifeguarddh.com.


Have a story tip? Email: cflanagan@mapleridgenews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

maple ridgeopioid crisis

Just Posted

Environment Canada predicts mainly sunny weather for the weekend, with highs of 24 C. (The News files)
Sunny weekend in forecast for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Highs of 24 predicted for both Saturday and Sunday

Have an opinion you’d like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
LETTER: Pandemic fight in stark contrast to Second World War unity, Maple Ridge man says

What if people of the Allied nations thought only of themselves during battle to defeat Hitler?

The draw for May’s Shop Local & Win contest takes place June 4, 2021. (Special to The News)
Open your wallet close to home and win

Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce hosts shop local competition

Brian Malfesi and his partner Vincent Jourdenais have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge kayak racer qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Malfesi is first B.C. sprint paddler to race for Team Canada at Olympics in 33 years

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Chamber of commerce for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows hosts Conservative leader

Erin O’Toole and MP Dalton part of online Zoom meeting on Monday

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Most Read