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Vigil mourns overdose deaths (6 photos)

'...I'm here to honour and respect these lives, and all other lives that we've lost to this opioid epidemic,' says organizer
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A number of people held candles and clutched signs in front of the Sault Ste. Marie courthouse Monday morning to honour the four lives that were lost to overdose last week.

“We’ve just lost four lives in four days to this opioid crisis, but we’ve actually, in the last year, have lost way more lives,” Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights founder Amanda Jabbour told reporters. “Sault Ste. Marie, the city itself finds a very, you know, quiet way to keep everything underground when things like this happen, and these lives matter.”

Michelle Jones works on the frontlines of opioid addiction at the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre.

She lost her son, Kenny Jones-Boyer, to an overdose in 2011.

He was just 20 years old.  

“It wasn’t his methadone, but when they’re struggling, they’re taking everything and...you can’t stop, you can’t stop,” Jones told SooToday during the vigil. “They’re a trainwreck.”

“So as a Mom, I understand fighting the system. You’re trying to protect them - in and out of the hospital, in and out of jails.”

Jones utilized a number of agencies locally in an effort to help her son.

“There was a lot of support at the time, I think they did what they needed,” Jones said. “But we couldn’t catch him fast enough, so it was hard.”

“You get to the point where we’d have him right up to catching the plane to go to treatment, then he’d be gone.”

Jones says that frontline supports have to work fast in order to get a person on the road to recovery.

“We’re trying to change the way that we’re handling clients at the friendship centre, so when they come in and they want help, we do the full intake...trying to get them to detox wherever it may be,” she said.

Two employees with Maamwesying North Shore Community Health Services - Chantelle Syrette and Krista Roy - were among the frontline workers at the vigil.

Syrette says that Maamwesying has been busy with its addiction recovery program located on the fifth floor of 123 March Street, and she showed up to Monday’s vigil with hopes that none of four lives lost last week were her clients.  

“They could be our clients,” said Syrette. “Our clients OD all the time, so we walk with them in their pain.”

Meanwhile, Jabbour told reporters at the vigil that she's hopeful that the city will have a detox facility in the future. 

“I have hope that they will get enough pressure from grassroots organizations and community members to come up with the provincial funding to open up a medical detox,” said Jabbour. “And if they do not, we need to keep continuing to push forward with change.”

“Change never occurred by people standing around. Change happens when it is forced.”

During the vigil, Jabbour emphatically told the crowd that it was four real people - with families, friends and loved ones - who died last week.

“These lives aren’t junkies, these lives were stolen and they were cut far too short, and so I’m here to honour and respect these lives, and all other lives that we’ve lost to this opioid epidemic,” Jabbour said.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday based in Sault Ste. Marie
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