Gone too soon

June 4, 2024 to December 2024

Purple poppies made of paper with names and messages from community members and family of those who have died as a result of a poisoned drug supply. Partially obscured.

CMHR, Linsday Affleck

Event details

This space is free to access.
The Forks North Portage Partnership Classroom Lobby

June 4, 2024 to December 2024

Gone too soon will be open to the public starting June 4, 2024, in the Community Corridor at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The Community Corridor is located in The Forks North Portage Partnership Classroom Lobby on the Main Level and can be viewed free of charge during the Museum’s hours of operation.

Arlene Last‐Kolb and Janis Gillam, two mothers who lost their children, explain the significance of Gone Too Soon.

This work honours those gone too soon from a poisoned drug supply.

On the poppy petals, you will find messages written by community to their loved ones. They were made at a national harm reduction conference in November 2022 held in Manitoba, with more created in April 2024 at the Annual Planning Meeting for the Winnipeg Harm Reduction Network.

The poppies have been placed in the form of a flowing river. This river of poppies represents the many thousands of people who have died too soon.

From 2016 to 2023, 42,494 individuals are known to have died from opioid toxicity deaths in Canada. Their rights to life and security of person were not protected.

People who use drugs are entitled to basic human rights and dignity. Substance use is a public health matter, not a moral failing. However, stigmatization, inadequate access to healthcare and systemic mistreatment persist. Advocacy for proven harm reduction methods, like safe supply initiatives and decriminalization, is imperative. Preventable deaths continue to rise in Canada, highlighting government inaction.

This river of poppies is not just a tribute to those who are gone too soon. It sends a clear message to governments and policy makers that we must have a safe supply for everyone. These deaths are preventable, and our loved ones deserved better.

Their memory endures, guiding our path forward.


About the creators 

Arlene Last‐ Kolb

Arlene Last‐Kolb is a mother and activist. She co‐founded Overdose Awareness Manitoba and is currently an advocate for Moms Stop the Harm. 

On July 18, 2014, Arlene’s son Jessie died from fentanyl overdose poisoning. Jessie was only 24. All of her hopes and dreams for a beautiful son were gone and her life took on a very different path. 

Following her son’s death, Arlene’s life became about fighting for her son’s rights and soon, for every person’s human rights as hundreds more loved ones died in Manitoba. 

Arlene advocates for the rights of people who use or try drugs to have a safer supply to help prevent toxic street supply‐induced overdose deaths. 

How many more must die? What is an unacceptable number? 

For a mother, it is one. 

Janis Gillam

Janis Gillam’s daughter Phoebe died on July 26, 2020 from fentanyl poisoning. She was only 31 years old. 

From that moment, Janis lived every parent’s worst nightmare, the death of a child. In the aftermath, she began advocating for safe supply, harm reduction and to end stigma surrounding substance use. Janis fights for the end of judgement, shame, punishment and denial of human rights for those living with addictions. This is what Phoebe needed, wanted and deserved. Janis believes we need to act today so that people do not die tomorrow.

Today, Janis and her husband Peter are raising their grandson Jaxon. He is the last gift Phoebe gave them; a beautiful reminder that she once lived.