‘These are users who were given toxic drugs’: Waterloo church celebrates Overdose Awareness Day | Pro IQRA News

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Dozens of chairs, each representing someone in Waterloo Region who died of drug poisoning in 2021, circled the edge of the Waterloo North Mennonite Church parking lot Tuesday.

Each chair was erected as a solemn reminder of a life lost in the region as the church raised awareness ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day, which is on August 31 this year.

“These are users who have been given toxic drugs, and many of them are because they are criminalized and they don’t have access to controlled drugs,” says Gordon Allaby, lead minister at Waterloo North Mennonite Church.

“When you see it laid out, like these chairs, you realize it’s a lot of people. There were people in our church who were directly affected by this, and we are trying to raise awareness so that people really know what is going on,” said Allaby.

The church set up the outdoor display in the hope that people driving or walking by would take notice.

“We need to decriminalize it and end the stigmatization of it, because a lot of these users die alone, and it’s terrible, it’s sad,” he added.

Following the performance, the church held a service Tuesday evening in honor of those who died and invited members of the community to speak and share their experiences.

“Across Canada, including in Waterloo Region, overdoses and overdose-related deaths have increased each year to unprecedented levels,” said a statement from Waterloo Region released ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Wednesday will be marked locally by two events organized by the Overdose Prevention Working Group of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy (WRIDS).

The first event will be held from 12pm to 2pm at Dickson Park in Cambridge, and the second will take place in Kitchener’s Victoria Park from 6pm to 8pm.

Both events will include a memorial, guest speakers, light refreshments and access to harm reduction supplies.


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