Our com­mu­ni­ties are bet­ter off thanks to the work of coro­ners

Times Colonist - - Islander - CHARLA HUBER Charla Huber works in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Indige­nous re­la­tions for M’akola Group of So­ci­eties.

When some­thing scares me, I try my best to avoid it. I know that I am not alone in this. Dur­ing my years as a re­porter cov­er­ing hard-news sto­ries, I would feel scared when a coro­ner ar­rived on scene be­cause I knew that meant some­one had died. I’ve cov­ered fa­tal car crashes and boat­ing ac­ci­dents that ended in drown­ings and have stood be­hind the po­lice tape out­side homes where mur­der-sui­cides oc­curred.

I don’t cover hard news sto­ries any more, but when I turn to so­cial me­dia for an up­date on a road clo­sure, I al­ways feel some­thing in the pit of my stom­ach when I read the words: “The coro­ner has ar­rived on scene.”

Death is scary and un­pleas­ant, and it means some­one’s fam­ily link has been bro­ken.

Only re­cently have I taken the time to learn more about the B.C. Coro­ners Ser­vice and how it’s en­hanc­ing our com­mu­nity. It re­ally threw me for a loop, be­cause I’d never thought about pos­i­tives that could come from the coro­ners. I al­ways thought only of the scary part of their work.

On Nov. 1, the B.C. Coro­ners Ser­vice won a Premier’s Award for ev­i­dence­based de­sign for its data col­lec­tion on the pub­lic-health cri­sis caused by fen­tanyl. The Coro­ners Ser­vice works to col­lect the data about th­ese deaths that are help­ing to save the lives of oth­ers.

“We are look­ing into tox­i­col­ogy re­ports, what pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures could be im­ple­mented and the stigma that peo­ple face,” said Andy Wat­son, man­ager of strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the B.C. Coro­ners Ser­vice, ex­plain­ing the ser­vice is an­a­lyz­ing the in­for­ma­tion to de­ter­mine why peo­ple are dy­ing and what re­sources are avail­able. The data col­lected help de­ter­mined where the nine su­per­vised con­sump­tion sites and 21 over­dose pre­ven­tion sites are lo­cated across our prov­ince. There are two of each in Greater Vic­to­ria.

“Find­ing some­one with drug para­pher­na­lia doesn’t mean they died of a drug over­dose. Even if some­one sees some­thing ob­vi­ous, we need ev­i­dence,” said Wat­son, adding that nearly 1,500 peo­ple died of fen­tanyl over­doses in 2017.

“We in­ves­ti­gate all sud­den, un­ex­pected and un­nat­u­ral deaths,” he said. “We can make rec­om­men­da­tions to help pre­vent fu­ture deaths.”

Th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions aren’t just for drug over­doses, they can be of­fered in all types of sit­u­a­tions, such as tight­en­ing up life-jacket reg­u­la­tions af­ter a boat­ing ac­ci­dent.

I can’t imag­ine what it would feel like to lose a fam­ily mem­ber where a coro­ner would need to in­ves­ti­gate.

“It’s a vul­ner­a­ble time, and we of­fer ad­di­tional sup­ports,” said Wat­son. “We try and sup­ply sup­ports and make a con­nec­tion with the fam­ily.”

Re­gard­less of how a death oc­curs, the re­ac­tion to the death varies from fam­ily to fam­ily. How peo­ple re­act to death is per­sonal and cul­tural, and the B.C. Coro­ners Ser­vice is mind­ful of this.

“It makes us take a step back and ask peo­ple what their prac­tices are,” Wat­son said. “B.C. is a mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety with rich, won­der­ful cul­tures who all grieve dif­fer­ently.”

To put things in per­spec­tive, there are nearly 200 First Na­tions in Bri­tish Columbia and ev­ery First Na­tion has its own pro­to­cols around some­one’s pass­ing. I have spent a lot of time in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties since I moved here nearly 17 years ago and over this time, I have seen sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences among var­i­ous na­tions.

B.C. Chief Coro­ner Lisa La­pointe signed a dec­la­ra­tion of Com­mit­ment to Cul­tural Safety and Hu­mil­ity with the First Na­tions Health Au­thor­ity, the Min­istry of Health and the pro­vin­cial health au­thor­i­ties.

The Coro­ners Ser­vice isn’t just work­ing to be cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive with Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, it’s work­ing to be sen­si­tive to all cul­tures in this prov­ince, and I find that very im­pres­sive.

It has been a les­son to me to look a lit­tle closer at the or­ga­ni­za­tions and peo­ple who serve our com­mu­ni­ties and pro­vide es­sen­tial ser­vices, even if they sound a bit scary. Our prov­ince is bet­ter for the work the B.C. Coro­ners Ser­vice is do­ing, and I am sure there are so many other pos­i­tive sto­ries that come out of scary sit­u­a­tions.

The B.C. Coro­ners Ser­vice won a Premier’s Award on Nov. 1. Back row: Aubrey Bal­dock, left, Ti­mothy Wiles, Eric Pe­tit, Su­san Stapleton, Premier John Hor­gan, Vince Stan­cato, Michael Egilson and Brian Emer­son. Front row: Maria Salas, left, Tej Sidhu, Lisa La­pointe and Parveen Thind.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.