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B.C. mom says online comments piling on more hurt to son’s death

Mother whose son died from toxic drugs, said comments about street people dehumanizing
Christopher Petz in hospital while recovering from an incident in which a driver on Highway 97 ran into him while he was on a bicycle. (Photo submitted)

The mother of a Williams Lake man who died in December due to toxic drug poisoning is frustrated with how people spoke of her son online and the many systems which she said failed him.

“I’m a mad mom,” said Petz, from a hospital room where she was being treated for depression and PTSD. Petz said she is struggling to deal with her son Christopher’s death, which happened on Dec. 14, 2023. He had been living at the Hamilton Hotel, which is operating as a low-barrier shelter run by Canadian Mental Health.

While she had been living in fear of his death, it was still a shock, and as a mom, she is finding it hard to take in, frustrated at the lack of resources to help her son and some of what people would say about him and other people living on the streets and struggling with addiction.

“They totally dehumanized my son, they made him out to be an animal,” she said of the comments she had read online.

Petz admitted her son was no saint, his struggles began early in life, and at a young age, he could be difficult. She sent him to a Catholic school with the hope it might help.

“I thought maybe putting the fear of God into him might do something,” she said. But Christopher threatened to burn the school down.

Petz said Christopher was diagnosed with an oppositional defiance disorder and he suffered from an intestinal issue at a young age as well, having to undergo surgery to remove over a foot of intestine.

She moved out to Big Lake, with Christopher and his brother going to Big Lake School, where she said he did fairly well, making friends, burning off energy dirt biking, doing 4-H and other activities to keep him busy.

When Christopher was 17, Petz and her husband split up, and the entire family struggled.

“Times were pretty tough,” said Petz. While Petz remarried, Christopher began working a high-paying forestry job, and at 19 he started earning “wads of cash” she said.

“Things started going downhill when they put him on nightshift,” recalled Petz. She believes this is when her son was introduced to cocaine.

Around the same time, Petz herself lost everything and became homeless with her younger son after she and her second husband split up, and her ability to help Christopher was limited.

“We slept on couches and everything,” she said. During the 2017 wildfires, she was evacuated and was heading to Prince George in her RV when it broke down in Quesnel. She ended up staying there, and has been there ever since.

Christopher was still in Williams Lake, and had become homeless as well, she would go and do wellness checks on him when she could, taking him food. She said he refused her attempts to help him.

Then in February of 2022, her son was severely injured when he was hit by a vehicle being driven on Highway 97 north of Williams Lake, severing his leg.

He was in the hospital in Kamloops but Petz said due to the protocols requiring using low doses of methadone to begin with, they could not keep Christopher’s drug cravings in check. As a result, she said he would pull himself into a wheelchair and leave the hospital, going out to get drugs on the street. This then led to him not taking good enough care of his reattached leg, and in the end, it had to be amputated.

Petz said she tried to have her son transferred to Quesnel so he could be closer to her and able to be with her when he was released, but he was refused a bed in Quesnel. Petz believes this was likely due to his problematic behaviour.

Since his release from the hospital, her son was living at times at the shelter in Williams Lake, and at times in encampments, where she would try and visit him.

When the RCMP arrived at her door at 3 a.m. on Dec. 14, as they walked into her living room, she already knew what they had to tell her.

“My son is dead isn’t he?” she recalled asking. She was told her son died from a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodon, commonly known by the trade name Vicodin, as well as fentanyl and heroin.

She said when she went to view her son’t body, she gave him heck.

“I’m mad at him too,” she said, acknowledging his failings. But Petz mostly believes the failure were the system’s, not her son’s.

She said she blames ICBC for not doing more to help her son after he was hit and wants to see RCMP, health care and politicians doing more for unhoused people and those struggling with addiction.

“Instead of showing all the glory of the ripping down tents, I want to know where those people are going to go.”

A few days later she went down to collect her son’s belongings from his room at the Hamilton Hotel.

She said they had a small ceremony at Spirit Square for him.

Petz said she still struggles with the hurt of hateful things people said about her son online.

“It still impacts me to this day,” she said.

“The whole town got to read that. I would never say that about another human being.”

READ ALSO: Toxic drugs blamed as B.C. homeless deaths more than double

READ ALSO: ‘Death penalty situation’: 6 years ago, B.C. declared toxic drug poisonings a health emergency

Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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