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Vigil honours overdose victim, supports family in Williams Lake

More than 200 people gathered outside an apartment building to show support

Tears were shed as more than 200 people gathered Thursday evening (April 18) in Williams Lake to remember a local 24-year-old woman, the lakecity’s latest victim of a toxic drug supply.

Photographs and a painting of the late Izaria Bowe holding her cat, along with candles and a bouquet of flowers, were placed on the lawn in front of a ground-floor apartment balcony at the corner of Borland Street and Seventh Avenue downtown, as friends and family held a candle light vigil with drumming and singing.

“My baby girl fought right from the time she was conceived,” said her Bowe’s mother Melissa Chenier as she thanked everyone for showing up and sharing their support at the vigil. “It is a really difficult time. Thank you.”

Bowe is one of the several people in the Williams Lake area to die from a toxic drug poisoning (overdose) recently.

At least three other toxic drug deaths were confirmed in early April and several in March, which prompted Interior Health to issue a toxic drug alert that was in effect until April 1, 2024.

Val West told the crowd she had been asked by Bowe’s mom to organized the vigil.

“As a mother of a daughter, I cannot imagine what Melissa is going through,” West said, adding she also wanted to support all of the family, friends, coworkers and community who would be impacted.

West said she remembered Bowe as being a bubbly child.

“I don’t imagine that ever went away,” she said.

Kelsea Chelsea, a councillor for Esk’etemc and owner of Four Winds Driving School, said he worked with Bowe and was asked to speak as a friend of the family.

“I feel that this pandemic that we are going through needs to be addressed,” he said of the drug crisis.

Looking around he noted there was representation from every single First Nations community in the region and as far as Bella Coola.

“Every one of us is here for this young woman who passed away,” he said.

Chelsea said it has been an honour to work with Bowe, and how much he enjoyed her constant smile and joy.

“She travelled around the world and shared a message of hope and a message of unification and unity, all with a smile on her face,” he said. “If the pandemic we are going through can affect a young woman like this, it can affect every single person here.”

Esk’etemc chief Fred Robbins thanked everyone for coming out and supporting the family.

“It is very difficult when you lose someone so young,” Robbins said. “We’ve all experienced it one way or another so look after your families. Call your mom, call your dad, let them know how you are doing, because you never know when your number will be called.”

Robbins also expressed his condolences to the family.

One of Bowe’s aunts said she was very sad that drugs are taking so many young people.

“This breaks my heart to so many young people die. We have to do something like this every other day so that young people can get out and talk with one another,” she said.

Last Friday the Tsilhqot’in National Government declared a local state of emergency due to the recent overdose deaths.

READ MORE: First Nation communities in Chilcotin grieve 3 fatal drug poisonings

READ MORE: Tŝilhqot’in leaders call state of local emergency after overdose deaths

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