EDITORIAL: Unintended victims

The horrible effects of a record year for overdoses in B.C. reaches beyond the big cities

No living victims have been hurt more than Charlie and Saskia by this year’s drug-overdose epidemic in B.C.

They don’t live on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. They live in a rural area outside Parksville known as Errington.

They aren’t part of the drug culture. They are 11 and nine years old, respectively, and both of their parents are dead.

It was August 14 when 27-year-old Brittany O’Leary and 29-year-old Danny Byron died in their Errington home after a drug overdose. Word is Charlie and Saskia discovered their bodies that morning. ‘Awful’ does not begin to describe that scenario.

No amount of government warnings and education efforts will erase that memory from these dear children, nor will it bring their parents back.

By all accounts, O’Leary and Byron were in love and were loving parents. We are told they were not everyday, hardcore users. Such is the Russian-roulette nature of even casual illicit drug use these days, when a small amount of fentanyl unknowingly ingested can kill, destroying families and leaving behind young, innocent orphans.

The B.C. Coroners’ office has not finished its investigation of this tragedy, so we don’t know officially what killed O’Leary and Byron. That hardly matters to Charlie and Saskia.

“Losing a daughter, a son, a sister, a brother or a parent is hard, but for these kids they lost both parents on the same day,” says the preamble on the gofundme page set up to help the children. The goal was to raise $7,000 and it was at $5,900 late last week.

Here is where we are supposed to say something good can come of this tragedy, some lessons or strategy that may help others avoid a similar fate. Can’t find those words, can’t muster any altruisms or helpful tips.

There were 622 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths from January through October in B.C., a 57 per cent increase over the same period last year. There were seven on Vancouver Island alone in the one-week period ending Thursday. Island Health issued an “urgent warning.”

Members of small volunteer fire departments in places like Errington and Dashwood are being trained in the use of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

This overdose epidemic is not a big-city issue. It is not about unemployed, down-and-out drug addicts who rob our stores and homes to get their next fix. This is about avoiding tragedy, putting a stop to the pain left behind.

This is about never hearing another story like the one of Charlie and Saskia.

— Editorial by John Harding