A firefighter taking a patient's blood pressure

Remembering hundreds of lives and recognizing community and first responders on International Overdose Awareness Day 2018

Global event follows second highest month of overdose deaths in Vancouver this year

“Today, we honour all of the people whose lives were ended tragically and abruptly by deadly street drugs in our city,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

August 31 2018 –

Approximately 833 people have lost their lives in Vancouver to a suspected overdose since 2016, the year a public health emergency was announced by the provincial government, with July seeing the second highest number of deaths in one month in Vancouver in 2018.

Today, Friday, August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. City Hall will light up purple as we remember those who have died and thank the front line workers who work tirelessly every day as the toxicity of street drugs continues to increase.

“Today, we honour all of the people whose lives were ended tragically and abruptly by deadly street drugs in our city,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “These senseless deaths have left a trail of devastation in our community, but Vancouver is a resilient city and we won’t stop fighting for lifesaving measures - access to addictions treatment, clean opioids and essential health supports. While this public health crisis continues to take a heavy toll on our city, we need to recognize the heroic efforts of our front line workers who are out there every day saving lives.”

Our committment to reducing stimga

Reports show that the majority of overdose deaths occur inside, when people are alone. We are committed to continuing to work with partners to reduce stigma around drug use. By reducing stigma, society is more likely to understand that addiction is a health issue, and people are less likely to use drugs where there is no one around to help.

The crisis has also put a strain on Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) who are dealing with more overdose response calls than ever before - calls have increased by 150% since 2015. We thank all those working on the front line, including peer first responders, who demonstrate incredible commitment and compassion every day.

Programs and initiatives

We've worked with partners to implement life-saving efforts in recent years, and funded various initiatives to mitigate the impacts of the overdose emergency in 2017 including:

  • Projects, programs, and events to address stigma and support access to a clean drug supply
  • Employment support and resourcing to various organizations including an additional three-person VFRS medic unit in the Downtown Eastside to support a rapid response to overdoses
  • Innovative equipment such as BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) drug checking machine

Help raise awareness

Join others this evening to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths at the community-organized International Overdose Awareness Day Vigil and Rally, on the south plaza of Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby Street) at 7 pm.

Read the BC Coroners Services' report on Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC, January 1, 2008 to July 31, 2018.