March 26 - Injected against her will

Island construction wins award for harm reduction, underwater wonders, no charges in teen's death.

Good morning !

Back in the summer of 2023, investigative reporter Tori Marlan told our team about a story she was working on about people who are forced to receive an injection by the BC government. She’s been following it ever since.

Now, many months later, we've co-published Tori's latest piece with the Investigative Journalism Foundation. It's our top story in today's newsletter.


Today’s approx. read time: 6 minutes

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Against her will: Victoria woman forced by doctors to inject medicine she says harms her

Kirsten Anvik. Photo: Tori Marlan

Warning: This story references sensitive subject matter that may be upsetting to some readers. 

Every five weeks Kirsten Anvik takes two buses to a strip mall pharmacy in Esquimalt, BC, to pick up 300 milligrams of an antipsychotic medication. Then, with a vial of the drug in hand, she pushes through an interior door that connects the pharmacy to a medical office and sits in the waiting area, dreading the injection to come. 

A 54-year-old single mother, Kirsten—who goes by Kir—once aspired to teach yoga. But that dream vanished soon after she was prescribed Abilify Maintena. “My balance started going off,” she says, “and I was getting nerve muscle spasms in my limbs.” She also began to notice debilitating nerve pain, swelling throughout her body, and problems with her hips. “Little by little, my body started to stiffen up.”  

She says that the drug has taken a toll on her mind as well, that it dulls her emotions and causes brain fog. She takes four other medications—lisdexamfetamine, pregabalin, clonazepam, and zopiclone—to minimize its effects. 

Abilify Maintena is the injectable form of Abilify. Both are widely prescribed to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Their active ingredient, aripiprazole, activates dopamine receptors in the brain. Aside from its possible physical side effects—which include loss of balance, muscle pain and stiffness, inner restlessness, weight gain, seizures, and involuntary muscle contractions—aripiprazole has been linked to compulsive behaviours, such as pathological gambling, binge eating and hypersexual activity. 

Despite the harm the drug can cause, and the harm Kir says she’s experiencing, the BC government is forcing her to take it. She isn’t allowed to stop—or to swap it out for a substitute she might better tolerate.

⚠️ Capital Bulletin

Missing Nanaimo man, 87, found dead. [RCMP]

Burnside Road West eastbound lanes near Island Highway expected to be open following vehicle-cyclist collision. West Shore RCMP

Driving today? Check the current traffic situation via Google.


Vancouver Island Construction Association program wins national award

Photo: Tailgate Toolkit

The Tailgate Toolkit supports and educates construction workers about substance use, mental health, and pain management—and is the recipient of the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) 2024 Community Award.

A 2022 BC Coroners Service report found 35% of workers who died of illicit drug use during the review period between Aug.1, 2017, and July 31, 2021, were employed in the trades, transport, or as equipment operators.

“You know, construction is a physically taxing job and if somebody gets injured, they can be relegated to pain medication,” says Rory Kulmala, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA).

“And when they run out of that or access to, then they turn to, you know, illicit substances.”

In the video, worker Daniel says a lot of the people he’s met on job sites are working paycheque to paycheque, so missing time from work often is not an option.

“You get stuck in maybe a mindset or a way of thinking like ‘Well, if I take this substance, I’ll be able to get through the day,’” says Daniel.


Celebrate cherry blossoms at The Big Picnic

The Big Picnic is a special event that brings people from all over Metro Vancouver together to share in the beauty of the cherry blossoms and experience why “there are no strangers under the cherry tree”. The event is inspired by the long-time Japanese cultural tradition of hanami which literally translates to “cherry blossom (hana) viewing (mi)”.

Join other Vancouverites and visitors at The Big Picnic on March 30 at David Lam Park. You’ll be able to relax under cherry blossoms right in the heart of the city in the Yaletown neighbourhood while enjoying a superb line-up of local talent on the Cherry Jam Stage as well as a variety of interactive arts activities, workshops vendors and food trucks.

⭐️ Capital Picks

🐠 Under the sea: Sculpins and urchins photographed by divers near Sheringham Lighthouse. [Photos]

🎯 Enhance your skills, stay current with career-focused training. Refresh your career with Continuing Studies at UVic.*

🥕 Victoria’s 10 best vegan-friendly restaurants. [Tasting Victoria] And don’t forget to vote for your favourite one in the Tasting Victoria Awards. Vote here! 

🚗 Get back on the road. The experienced lawyers at Acumen Law Corporation will give you the best legal support for your driving prohibition case.*

🤝 Now hiring: Horse-drawn Carriage Drivers at Tally Ho.

*Sponsored Listing

🗞️ In Other News

IIO investigating after cyclist seriously injured in crash with off-duty RCMP in Langford
The officer was driving an unmarked police vehicle when Thursday’s crash occurred on Millstream Road. The IIO was notified the next day and will look into the circumstances of the crash. [CHEK]

Charges won’t proceed in death of Victoria teen
The BC Prosecution Service stayed the proceedings that closed the case in 2022 because it didn’t have a substantial likelihood of ending in a conviction. In 2021, Samantha ­Krysia Sims-Somerville was 18 when she died of a lethal combination of alcohol and date-rape drugs at a house party on Yates. Her friend narrowly survived a similar dose. Sims-Somerville’s mother thinks her daughter was murdered and has pushed police to reopen the case. [Times Colonist]

Vic snorkeler swims into strange creature near Clover Point
The spiral-shaped invertebrate was a mystery to UVic student Steph Brulot until he shared photos online where it was identified as a giant siphonophore. The jellyfish-related creature usually avoids sunlight and prefers deeper water, a marine biologist said. The one Brulot saw was two feet long, but they can grow to 130. [CHEK

New drone base expected for the Island by year’s end
The $53M space will house 25 personnel at RCAF Base Comox, along with three drones, as part of the federal government’s $2.5B military drone program. The 5,700-square-metre facility will bookend a drone base being designed for Nova Scotia at 14 Wing Greenwood, which will house eight drones. The 11 armed drones will be piloted remotely from Ottawa. [CTV]

🗓️ Things to do

🏥 Shine Gala. Luxury entertainment, silent and live auction, fashion show, dinner. For BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. Fairmont Empress Hotel. April 6. [Info]  

🎹 Minsoo Sohn. The internationally acclaimed pianist returns to the UVic School of Music for a captivating performance of Franz Liszt’s Transcendental Études as well as the six Consolations, S.172. Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Friday. 7:30pm. [Info]

🎞️ IMAX Victoria Film Festival. Blue Whales, Pandas 3D, Everest, Deep Sky, Mummies and more. IMAX Royal BC Museum. Through March 31. [Info]

🎸 Louisiana Hayride Show: The tribute band will perform classic songs from Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, and more at Mary Winspear Centre. Today. 7pm.

🎥 La Haine at Cinecenta: The French thriller film will be shown at the UVic theatre. Today. 5pm and 7pm.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Subscribe to This  Week In Vic to get the full list of what’s on this week. 

👀 In Case You Missed It

Sunday headlines: It’s been 33 years since Michael Dunahee vanished; Orca stranded in Zeballos Causeway; $58M lotto jackpot goes off-Island. [March 24]

The curious case of PA’s Brandon Cairney, revisited. [Capital Daily]

Monday headlines: Mother dies, calf heads to sea; Easter goodies lookahead; Royals return to playoffs after five seasons; And more. [March 25]

Lake Cowichan gets ‘no brainer’ new weir. [Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle]

Saanich mystery right out of the 1970s. [CHEK]

BC overdose prevention tool saving lives. [CBC]

That’s it!

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