Alberta group helps families affected by opioid crisis send photos of loved ones to prime minister
Organizers estimate 500 photos and letters have already been sent to Justin Trudeau's office this week
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Advocates and families affected by Canada's growing opioid crisis are launching a letter-writing campaign this week to pressure the federal government to take action – but instead of words, they’re using photographs to convey their message.
The 'Do Something Prime Minister Photo Campaign', organized by Moms Stop the Harm (MSTH) and the Alberta Foundation for Changing the Face of Addiction (AFCFA), is encouraging families to send photos of their loved ones who have died from opioid-related causes or who are seeking recovery from substance use to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office in Ottawa.
“We need to see leadership at the top, starting with our prime minister,” said Petra Schulz, a co-founder of MSTH. “Over the past months he has spoken on many issues, but has been relatively silent regarding this crisis. We feel Justin Trudeau isn’t really paying attention to this problem.”
According to Health Canada, 2,816 people died of apparent opioid-related causes across Canada last year. More than 360 of them were in Alberta.
“There’s still a lot of struggles and a lot of challenges (with this crisis),” Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne told reporters at the Issues of Substance Conference this week, which is being hosted in Calgary.
“Ultimately, there’s always going to be more work to do as long as we’re losing Albertans to opioids.”
Schulz, who’s 25-year-old son Danny died of a fentanyl overdose in 2014, estimates 500 envelopes have already been sent this week – which happens to be National Addiction Awareness Week.
On the back of the photo, families and friends are being asked to write the person’s name, their date of birth and death, cause of death and their relationship to them. On the outside of the envelopes, they scrawl a simple message: ‘Somebody’s someone.’
“We want him to be aware of how difficult and how painful this is for the families and draw attention to the sheer magnitude of this crisis,” Schulz said. “This is one of the greatest health crisis our country has faced … and our kids matter.”
Schulz said she’s heard from families across Canada who are eager to participate and hopes they will inspire Trudeau to speak out about the crisis and commit additional funding to help provinces provide substance use treatment and harm reduction measures.
“We will continue this campaign for as long as people are dying in the opioid crisis,” Schulz said. “The Prime Minister can expect our envelopes in the mail.”