Skip to content

VIDEO: Chilliwack rally focused on skyrocketing deaths from fentanyl poisoning

Tanis Oldenburger of Chilliwack Overdose Prevention Society called numbers ‘atrocious, preventable’
Dwayne and Michelle Thornhill remember their son, Aysa, at the Chilliwack rally at Five Corners, Feb. 10, 2022. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Aysa Thornhill was a bubbly 27-year-old with lots of friends when he died of fentanyl poisoning.

Dwayne and Michelle Thornhill of Chilliwack, attended the rally at Five Corners on Feb. 10, remembering their son with love, and pushing for a safer opioid supply.

“Aysa was just a bubbly, and energetic person,” Michelle said, a member of Moms Stop The Harm. “He had tons of friends and there was no reason for this to happen.”

Aysa was one of 55 souls in Chilliwack who lost their lives to toxic street drugs in 2021.

He’d definitely be alive today if there was easy access to a safer supply, Dwayne said.

The Thornhills cradled a framed photo of their son at the rally, while advocating for more mental-health supports, and legislative changes that would pave the way to a government-regulated opioid supply.

Dwayne said that his son wasn’t an addict but just had some mental health struggles.

“In our son’s case all it took was one packet of cocaine laced with fentanyl, and he died from fentanyl poisoning. He didn’t overdose. That’s what I want people to know.”

Rally organizer Tanis Oldenburger, project co-ordinator of Chilliwack Overdose Prevention Society, called the just-released numbers “atrocious and preventable.”

It was the worst year ever documented in terms of fatalities in B.C. from illicit drug toxicity, with 2,224 deaths provincewide. That number is 26 per cent higher than the year before.

It wasn’t a surprise to those working in harm reduction, she said, about the BC Coroners’ Service report released this week.

They knew already by the end of October because the totals had already surpassed the previous year’s, Oldenburger underlined.

“The numbers just keep going up, and up, and up.”

The rally on Thursday morning at Five Corners was meant to raise more awareness in Chilliwack.

“I think people have been so distracted by COVID, and don’t realize that the numbers have skyrocketed because a lot of our health care and health authority resources were diverted over the past couple of years.”

She points to “diversion of resources, isolation culture, increased stigma, and increased discrimination” since the pandemic, for contributing to the resurgence in overdose deaths, particularly the last two months of 2021.

Calling for access to a safer supply is nothing new in harm reduction circles, Oldenburger said.

“The medications are there. They’re available. They’re in every pharmacy. It’s just red tape,” said.

RELATED: 55 OD deaths in Chilliwack in 2021

RELATED: Rally set for Thursday in Chilliwack

Do you have something to add to this story, or a news tip? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Chilliwack rally organized by Chilliwack Overdose Prevention Society at Five Corners, Feb. 10, 2022. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack rally organized by Chilliwack Overdose Prevention Society at Five Corners, Feb. 10, 2022. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
Read more