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A Funeral March for Change

By: Angie Hamilton, Executive Director, Families for Addiction Recovery

Angie Hamilton (left) and Irene Reilly-Paterson (right)

It’s April 16 – the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis 2019. On arriving at Queen’s Park, I’m offered a tombstone to carry. “Ryan Klein ‘Batman’ strong individual, loved cars, always down to party.” When I hesitate to take it, I’m told, “We have lots.” This is going to be a tough day.

It’s an honour to carry Ryan’s tombstone. I wish I had known him when he was alive. I wish I could give his parents a hug. Other parents offered me their condolences. “Oh no, um, my son is in recovery. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

I see harm reduction heroes, Zoe Dodd and Gillian Kolla, and I give them a hug. Thank them for their tireless work. They thank me for coming. “Honestly, rallies aren’t my thing. But we have been politely knocking on doors for over two years. And nothing changes.” Sad knowing nods.

It hurts that not one MPP has come to express sympathy or bear witness to all this pain and loss.

About two hundred of us walk in a funeral procession down University Avenue. The police have closed all the southbound lanes for us. In front of me I can see the top of one of the office towers where, in what seems like another life, I worked for over a decade as a tax and estate planning lawyer.

I lie down in the middle of University Avenue in front of the offices of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, David Williams. Who would know his name given the scant number of times he has spoken out about this crisis? Getting up from my first “die in” I see Sheila Jennings, another lawyer, comforting Irene Reilly-Paterson. Both are members of Moms Stop the Harm.

We end our procession at the offices of Health Canada. Irene reads a poem “We Remember Them”. There isn’t a dry eye in the house. Red smoke bombs go off and we disperse.

The irony hits me when I’m watching the news a few weeks later about the pro-life rally at Queen’s Park that was attended by three MPPs.