KAMLOOPS — For many of us, the death of Ryan Pinneo in January of 2016 was the first indication something was different. The young Kamloops man had died of a fentanyl overdose. There were reasons this was different, and those are some of the reasons people took notice. Pinneo had a supportive family and a bright future, not the stereotypical burnout street junkie we previously associated with overdose deaths.
Yet for many, that negative stereotype remained true, and as this segment of the population saw overdose death numbers rising, they quietly said, "Good riddance to bad rubbish." They decried public money going toward harm reduction initiatives that would save lives, because in their hearts, they believed those lives were not worth saving.
Now we have heard that the overdose epidemic has taken another person who doesn't fit the stereotype. Christopher Seguin was by any standard very successful, well-known for his work in the community and the face of one of Kamloops' signature institutions. Seguin had a loving and supportive family and an extensive network of people proud to call him their friend. Would that unsympathetic segment of the population still oppose harm reduction measures if those measures would have saved Christopher's life? Unlikely.
But what separates those street junkies from victims like Pinneo and Seguin? What separates all of them from you and me? All of us have the capacity to love and to be loved. All of us have the capacity to contribute to our community and our broader society. And all of us have made bad decisions about what we put in our body at one time or another. The only difference is we didn't wind up dead, and that's a razor-thin line.
Any measure that keeps people from winding up dead, whether addicts or not, that gives them one more chance to live one more day, one more chance to find the strength and support they need to turn toward a different path, is one that should be supported. Every life is worth saving, whether at the top of the mountain, or down at the bottom.