This past year has been unlike any other. For many Canadians 2020 to 2021 brought a pandemic that sent their lives into a whirlwind. For even more Canadians, it represented a crisis within a crisis.  

 2020 and 2021 have come to represent a homelessness crisis, global pandemic, food emergency, and opioid overdose crisis. Over 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on any given night with a staggering number of 235,000 Canadians finding themselves homeless in any given year. Coupled with the over 4.2 million Canadians, often from lower socioeconomic brackets, living with food insecurity amid a global pandemic, while losing their closest neighbours to a tainted substance supply, the harsh lived realities of many Canadians must be realized.  

Driven by both illegal and prescription use, the opioid crisis in Canada is vastly growing. In 2016 alone, there were over 2000 opioid related deaths which is almost equivalent to eight people dying each day. This figure is greater than the average number of Canadians killed daily in motor vehicle collisions in 2015.  

On average, 16 Canadians were hospitalized each day due to opioid related poisonings in 2016. According to between April 2018 and March 2019, there were a total of 20,484 opioid related hospitalizations in Canada. Overall, 43% of opioid related hospitalizations also had an additional diagnosis of an existing mental health disorder. These numbers are not to even talk of the 16,364 opioid related deaths since 2016.  This crisis is having a devasting impact on the health and safety of Canadians and their communities.  

 Being there for the community, as an organization, means leveraging accessible services and programs now more than ever. Breakaway Community services is a multi-functional substance use support and treatment agency that provides a range of community-based and outreach programs. BCS offers six ground breaking programs that address individualized relationships with substances, substance use and its effects on family and youth and the intersectionality between substance use and housing. Breakaway seeks to provide treatment that informs all aspects of a client’s life and situation, actualizing the intersections trauma and lived experience have on substance use. 

Addiction affects 21 per cent of Canadians at some juncture in their lives. Creating a shift in the narrative around substance use and advocating for the humanisation of those navigating their relationships with substances begins with community. 

Within a landscape where Canadians are facing an opioid crisis, overwhelming homelessness, an impending global food emergency, and a public health crisis all at the same time, time is crucial. 


Written by: Teju Oladoyin, Breakaway Community Services