trees in Ontario

In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day 2023


The Ontario Network of People Who Use Drugs works to inform and shape drug policy, through advising, offering consultation, activism, and member capacity building


In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day 2023

In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, we would like to reflect and remember everyone who has lost their lives to a toxic and illicit supply of drugs supported by failed drug policies. Today, communities across Ontario grieve over the tragedies of lives lost due to the criminalization and dehumanization that people who use drugs experience daily. The last 365 days have claimed 7,328 plus lives. This is preventable and unacceptable.

This years theme for IOAD is “recognizing those who go unseen” and while we appreciate fatal drug poisonings have a rippling effect on the People who continue to lose their friends, family and loved ones we must continue to organize around these losses from the perspective that the health disparities and harmful drug policies that have remain unaddressed and unchanged are directly responsible for killing the people we love and diverting the focus waters down the experiences of the people at greatest risk of having their lives end. We as survivors, allies, advocates and people who use drugs need to hold our governments and Politicians accountable not allowing our focus to be shifted by campaigns, no matter how well intentioned.

Funding has been stripped to bare bones and as we see the COVID funding era drying up there’s even fewer resources being made available to communities whose determinants of health go unmet and who as a result are at heightened risk of death.

We continue to see the number of fatalities rise. We, the People at the greatest risk of death (because we are without options aside from a contaminated drug supply) have been on the front lines of this war for far too long and ask that all levels of government respond meaningfully to our cries for support and properly addresses long-term policy changes including decriminalization and legalization of all substances utilizing meaningful engagement with people who use drugs. We ask that you support and educate people in your community to take a stand beside us and do the same.

People who use drugs and their allies have been resilient as we continue to see our friends, family, and neighbours die. We are continuously demoralized, stripped of our humanity, demonized, stolen from and tokenized only when it is useful or used to prove engagement. We know better as we ourselves have to beg for the pennies while people in power sit in the Muskokas off the backs of our work and demand more output from us as PWUD than from those who aren’t regularly seeing or living the daily devastation.

Our work is laughed at, our ideas stolen, our support systems that you asked us to create are attacked while we are forced to hide our truths from systems that abuse us. Alone in portable toilets, burnt tents, public bathrooms, or our own houses; we die.

With rotten limbs, rotten teeth, and fire all around us, we trudge on. We do it, because if not: who will.

We need immediate action to ensure change and we need it now. This is a public health crisis and should be recognized as such and addressed with community informed evidence.

Please join us in a moment of silence today to remember all the lives lost. We will continue to fight against black and Indigenous racism, homophobia, transphobia, and the ideology that people who use drugs don’t have the right to life. We know and love people who use drugs and we are remembering over 33,000 Canadians who died from overdose since 2016.

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