Last April, British Columbia’s chief health officer took the unusual step of declaring a public health emergency after 200 people died from (suspected) fentanyl overdose during the first three months of 2016. By August the number of deaths had risen to 488. This is a record high, a 61.6 per cent increase on the same period in 2015 (302).
On Saturday, a 23-year-old woman called Ashlie Gough died from a suspected overdose at the Occupy Vancouver protest site. Before the weekend, the city's mayor, Gregor Robertson, had been treading carefully around the protest, stressing the need to avoid violent confrontation; his main opponent in the election due on 19 November, Suzanne Anton of the right-wing NPA party, had been demanding its closure. Both showed up for photo opportunities at the site on Sunday.
Last Wednesday evening, when disappointed hockey fans rioted in the streets of Vancouver, I was at a performance-art cabaret I’d curated called Rereading the Riot Act II, an interrogation of the events of 23 April 1935, when the mayor of Vancouver, Gerry McGeer, read the Riot Act to protesters from the Relief Camp Workers’ Union and their supporters who were gathered in Victory Square.
A Saturday morning, the first in my 40th year, I’m at the Mountain View Cemetery for ‘The Final Disposition Forum: De-Mystifying Death, Funerals, Cemeteries and Ceremonies’. I’ve come to face my fear of being buried in Vancouver, where I’ve lived for the past decade. I arrive late, the film A Family Undertaking has already started. On screen a set of cold-looking turned-out feet. The acoustics are terrible. But the feet are a good set, the ubiquitous final set. I am reassured, when my moment comes, I too will have a set of absolutely dead feet.