A ceremony was held Wednesday morning on the steps of city hall to commemorate the third annual International Overdose Awareness Day.
Later in the day, The Nameless, in partnership with Southwestern Public Health, held an open house at White Street Parkette in St. Thomas.
That was where Anna Maria Iredale of St. Marys dug deep into her reserve of fortitude to step forward with her personal tale of tragedy.
We’re documenting it in its entirety as a tribute to Anna Maria and her son.
That’s a photo of him below and every picture does tell a story. This one is well worth the time and effort it takes to absorb.
“I’m Anna, and I lost my wonderful son Mathew to fentanyl on Sept 8, 2017. After many years of fighting and failing to get to sobriety Mathew finally succeeded and was living in recovery.
“He finally got to where he wanted to be in his life, substance-free, happy, healthy, strong, and an amazing man. My heart burst with so much pride when I saw how far he had come. I finally got to know him as the man he was meant to be. What he nor I was prepared for was a relapse.
“My son relapsed the night we told him his stepbrother and his younger cousin passed away. Mathew struggled every day with his addiction for that following year.
“I honestly thought that he could recover – he did before when he fell down, he would again, I told myself.
“He had his own bricklaying company and made more money than I could dream of. He had joined a church got baptized, was involved in the youth group and had many good friends at the church, including the pastor and minister.
Mathew worked out at the gym and brought his friends from his NA group to the gym and his church. He was happy. I just knew he would get back to all that great life again. I was wrong.
“On Sept 2, 2017, sitting in an Irish pub eating his supper, he collapsed. They were able to bring him around but he aspirated his entire meal into his lungs. I was called the next day – on the morning of Sept 3, which was my stepson’s one-year angelversary – and told that my son was in a coma in Oshawa.
“We rushed to the hospital and I held my son’s hand for six days. A ventilator was hooked up and started breathing for him because Mathew had taken the time to sign up online to be an organ donor.
“Again, my heart burst with pride. I didn’t know this! He was always thinking of someone else. His last gift to
mankind was to let someone else live.
“A man got Mathew’s liver because of that and got a longer life.
“About a year later, I was so blessed to have a lady I didn’t know contact me and she told me about Moms Stop The Harm (a network of Canadian families impacted by substance-use-related harms and deaths).
“I joined this amazing online group and found understanding and compassion and learned a lot about addiction.
“Even more surprising was, as I learned, my views changed. I now advocate for International Overdose Awareness Day and try to spread awareness about it, in hopes of seeing the number of people dying from substance use come to an end.
“People are joining MSTH daily now. If other countries can cut the number of deaths, I have no doubt that Canada can too!
“Portugal has already been successful in doing this. We should be ripping a page from their book.
“We need people to realize that addiction is a disease and people are not defined by their diseases at all.
“When we sit in judgment of someone, we are not defining them, we are, in fact, defining ourselves – and not in a very good way either.
“I’m not ashamed of how my son died. I’m appalled by those who decide who is worthy to live or not.
“There are a lot of people in our society that have substance use disorders.
“This could be alcohol, pharmaceuticals or street drugs. Many of these people would never be able to even be recognizable, as they are not all automatically thieves or homeless or sickly looking or bad people.
“Some hold respectable jobs and have incredible careers. It’s not unheard of for professionals needing to use safe consumption sites.
“Remember addiction is a disease! No one wants this disease, and no one knows if they have it until they try it.”
“Today is International Overdose Awareness Day and many towns and cities acknowledge this day due to the extremely large numbers of people who are dying.
“Stigma and judgement cause people with substance use disorders to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. It truly is a disease and not a disease anyone wants.
“Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. Kindness, connection and compassion can change a person’s life and save a family from a tragic loss.
“Prohibition was a perfect example of how trying to take away something that is dangerous (alcohol) turned out. People who had addictions just made their own. People made it, sold it and drank it. Many died due to alcohol poisoning.
“Everyone noticed that the beer stores and liquor stores had to stay open during COVID. Had they closed, the death toll would have gone up. People would have been making their own alcohol and that can be extremely poisonous.
“A safe and regulated supply is about having safe substances available instead of people needing to buy street drugs.
“And, as an FYI, these would not be handed out for free. Our street drugs are contaminated with fentanyl and carfentanyl and that is killing people every day in our country. Over 29,052 have died from January 2016 to December 2021.
“Safe consumption sites are necessary now in order to make sure that someone who has to use, can do so safely.
“Remember addiction is a disease! No one wants this disease, and no one knows if they have it until they try it. Sort of like Russian roulette I’d say.
“People are addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, risky sex, tobacco, gaming and mobile devices for many different reasons.
“Quite often it is the result of trauma or emotional pain of some type. And there is sadly, not a lot of help for mental health these days with all the cutbacks.
“We need to have trauma counselling available for these people who suffer from a substance use disorder and for their families.
“So, I ask people to show a little compassion and kindness. It all boils down to the golden rule.
“Ask yourself, if this person was me, how would I want to be treated?
“Do onto others as you would want done to you.
“I speak in honour of my son and all those who have died due to drug-related harm.
“May you all Rest In Peace.”
When forwarding photos of Mathew our way, Anna closed out her email with the following observation.
“I always thought if Mathew ever wanted to get into modelling he probably could have, but never thought he’d become a poster guy to not use drugs.”
WHAT’S AT PLAY WITH BUILDING FEES?
Among the impacts of the pandemic, has the coronavirus played a role in reduced building permit fee revenue over the past couple of years?
In a report to council Tuesday, Dan Sheridan, the city’s director of finance indicates revenue from building permit fees last year totalled just over $1.2 million with $800,000 in associated costs.
That leaves a net surplus of just shy of $470,000.
Going back to 2020, the revenue was $1.3 million with costs of $840,000 resulting in a $515,000 surplus.
Not as rosy a picture so far this year, advises Sheridan.
As of July, costs are higher than building permit revenue and if that continues until the end of 2022, the city will have to draw from the reserve fund which sits at almost $2.4 million.
No indication in his report as to what factors are at play here.
No doubt, a member of council will ask for clarification.
THE GREAT JUMBO COVER-UP
City council resumes its normal meeting schedule on Tuesday (Sept. 6) and in one of the first reports to be dealt with we discover Jumbo is doing rather poorly and is suffering due to delamination and efflorescence.
In layman’s terms, the concrete is fractured into layers and efflorescence occurs when water containing dissolved salts is brought to the surface of masonry, the water evaporates and the salts are left on the surface.
All brought about by Jumbo standing in silent salute while exposed year-round to the elements.
While ongoing maintenance and restoration are recommended, the long-term fix is to construct a canopy over the pachyderm.
The monument was erected in 1985 to celebrate the centenary of the real-life Jumbo’s death in St. Thomas.
There is a Jumbo Restoration Reserve and costs associated with the above can be drawn from this fund.
In addition to being an impressive tourist draw, the monument is now incorporated into many celebrations through coloured lighting.
A SIGN OF THE (CLIMATE CHANGE) TIMES
Back in July, Aylmer town council adopted a resolution calling for increased federal and provincial funding for health units to develop uniform and comprehensive local responses to extreme heat and cold events.
Specifically, it is a policy to deal with the increased use of warming and cooling centres necessary during extreme temperature events.
Which begs the question, how is the city’s declaration of a climate emergency moving forward?
If you remember, the city formally declared a climate emergency back in February of 2020 after a compelling presentation to council by Doug Walker.
THE ECHO CHAMBER
In response to last week’s item on adjustments to the electoral riding boundaries and the impact on St. Thomas and Elgin county, Steve Ogden forwards the following.
“This is all about maintaining the advantage our antique (150+-year-old) electoral system gives to keeping either the Liberals or Conservatives in power.
“MP Vecchio need not worry. If the Liberals get in next time, the Conservatives will certainly resume power in the foreseeable future.”
FOR THE CALENDAR
Next Saturday (Sept. 10) Railway City Tourism is hosting an immersive guided tour that will take participants from the present day back into the history of St. Thomas.
A chance to learn about the city’s past by walking back in time to uncover the Tales of Talbot Street
It all begins at the Horton Farmers Market where the walking tour will step out. Tickets are still available for the 3 p.m. trip down memory lane.
For more info, visit https://www.railwaycitytourism.com/talesoftalbot.html where you can download a printable map and explore for yourself whenever it is convenient.
For the first time in three years, the St. Thomas Police Service is hosting an open house next Saturday (Sept. 10) from 1 until 4 p.m.
The event is free to attend at 45 CASO Crossing where police will be collecting both monetary and nonperishable food donations in support of the St. Thomas-Elgin Food Bank.
Tour the station, sit in a cruiser and the kids can meet Dotsy the Clown and get their faces painted.
And the plan is to return the annual Santa Claus parade to Talbot Street this year with the rolling celebration scheduled for Nov. 19.
To accommodate the parade, Talbot Street would be closed from the east side of First Avenue to the east side of William Street from 6 until 9 p.m. that day.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.