The rally to support the victims and families of recent overdose deaths finished at the waterfront, where people lit candles for loved ones and held up signs demanding more supports. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

The rally to support the victims and families of recent overdose deaths finished at the waterfront, where people lit candles for loved ones and held up signs demanding more supports. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Candles, marches and vigils held throughout Yukon

Yukoners raise awareness of need for prevention and intervention to address substance use problems

About two dozen people created a circle around a special fire to raise awareness and honour people who had been lost to addictions on the shores of Carcross’ Nares Lake on Jan. 15. The vigil began with the lake shrouded in a thick fog.

Candles and small hand-tied bundles of sweetgrass and sage were passed to everyone in appreciation of their presence and for everyone’s safekeeping.

Fog lifted from mountain tops as candles were lit at vigil in Carcross. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

Fog lifted from mountain tops as candles were lit at vigil in Carcross. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

The vigil action in Carcross and other Yukon communities was about keeping people safe; to keep more people from dying from drugs and alcohol. In Carmacks, a drummer led the march positioned between a child and a person carrying a sign that read “Treatment before Tragedy.”

In Whitehorse, around 100 people joined together to march from the Chilkoot Inn, down Fourth Avenue and Main Street to the waterfront totem poll. People carried signs calling for more supports across the territory: “No more overdoses,” “Every overdose is one too many,” and “Safe supply saves lives.”

From left to right: Sean McDougall, Felisha Ḵaneegwéik Johnson, and Keinas Áxh Łdóos Johnson at Carcross vigil on Jan. 15. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

From left to right: Sean McDougall, Felisha Ḵaneegwéik Johnson, and Keinas Áxh Łdóos Johnson at Carcross vigil on Jan. 15. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

Gathered around the healing totem, organizers and friends and family who had lost loved ones shared testimony, calling for changes in the territory to prevent more unnecessary deaths.

“We need to stand together,” implored Darlene Jim, who stood beside other friends and family of Travis Smarch, a 27-year-old who died from an overdose earlier this month.

Around 100 people gathered in Whitehorse on Jan. 15 to march from a route starting at the Chilkoot Inn to the waterfront. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Around 100 people gathered in Whitehorse on Jan. 15 to march from a route starting at the Chilkoot Inn to the waterfront. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

From spring 2016 to November 2021, 64 individuals in the Yukon have lost their lives due to drug overdoses. The Carcross/Tagish First Nation reported earlier this month that three of their citizens died from opioids in the first week of 2022.

Other people in the Whitehorse crowd stepped forward to share stories of sisters, cousins, parents and loved ones who had been lost during the opioid crisis.

Carissa Waugh lights and sets down a candle at a memorial for overdose victims on Jan. 15, remembering her cousin Travis Smarch. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Carissa Waugh lights and sets down a candle at a memorial for overdose victims on Jan. 15, remembering her cousin Travis Smarch. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

In Teslin, a sacred fire was lit by Elder John Peters Sr., who spoke a few words. The ceremony closed with a prayer by Annie Johnston. Many youth came out for the vigil in Teslin, which made people happy.

Candles were lit in windows in Ross River and in cabins and homes around the Yukon. Events were also planned in Old Crow and Mayo.

A sign, calling for enhanced safe supply in the territory, was held up during speeches in Whitehorse on Jan. 15. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

A sign, calling for enhanced safe supply in the territory, was held up during speeches in Whitehorse on Jan. 15. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

As people spoke in Carcross and listened as cry songs were sung, and as the drums beat — the clouds lifted off the mountaintops. When people lit small candles around the fire, the fog lifted.

— With files from Haley Ritchie

Contact Lawrie Crawford at lawrie.crawford@yukon-news.com

opioid crisis

 

Family and friends of Travis Smarch hold each other for support as Darlene Jim reads a heartfelt message about his life out loud. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Family and friends of Travis Smarch hold each other for support as Darlene Jim reads a heartfelt message about his life out loud. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Tealights were lit to remember lives lost from overdoses in the Yukon. Three people have died from opioids in the first week of 2022. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Tealights were lit to remember lives lost from overdoses in the Yukon. Three people have died from opioids in the first week of 2022. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Around 100 people gathered in Whitehorse on Jan. 15 to march from a route starting at the Chilkoot Inn to the waterfront. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Around 100 people gathered in Whitehorse on Jan. 15 to march from a route starting at the Chilkoot Inn to the waterfront. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

The rally to support the victims and families of recent overdose deaths finished at the waterfront, where people lit candles for loved ones and held up signs demanding more supports. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

The rally to support the victims and families of recent overdose deaths finished at the waterfront, where people lit candles for loved ones and held up signs demanding more supports. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Family and friends of Travis Smarch hold each other for support as Darlene Jim reads a heartfelt message about his life out loud. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Family and friends of Travis Smarch hold each other for support as Darlene Jim reads a heartfelt message about his life out loud. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Carissa Waugh lights and sets down a candle at a memorial for overdose victims on Jan. 15, remembering her cousin Travis Smarch. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Carissa Waugh lights and sets down a candle at a memorial for overdose victims on Jan. 15, remembering her cousin Travis Smarch. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Tealights were lit to remember lives lost from overdoses in the Yukon. Three people have died from opioids in the first week of 2022. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Tealights were lit to remember lives lost from overdoses in the Yukon. Three people have died from opioids in the first week of 2022. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

From left to right: Sean McDougall, Felisha Ḵaneegwéik Johnson, and Keinas Áxh Łdóos Johnson at Carcross vigil on Jan. 15. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

From left to right: Sean McDougall, Felisha Ḵaneegwéik Johnson, and Keinas Áxh Łdóos Johnson at Carcross vigil on Jan. 15. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

People invited to dance following prayer and cry songs at close of vigil ceremony in Carcross. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

People invited to dance following prayer and cry songs at close of vigil ceremony in Carcross. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

Fog lifted from mountain tops as candles were lit at vigil in Carcross. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

Fog lifted from mountain tops as candles were lit at vigil in Carcross. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)