Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)

Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

Riding from Saskatoon to Victoria in the middle of winter was difficult for Iliajah Pidskalny, whose Cycle to Stop the Harm tour for mental health, addiction and homelessness awareness rolled into town Thursday night.

Having endured multiple days of below-freezing temperatures and harsh prairie wind chill, which left him with frostbitten toes, he was glad to reach the warmer climes of the south Island this week.

So what kept him going through those tough days? Thinking about people and families affected by overdose, and others who are treated as lesser than, simply for being homeless.

The idea for the ride, which began Jan. 1, emerged from his meeting people living on the street in his home of Saskatoon.

“I just chatted with them and treated them like anybody else,” Pidskalny said. “But I was shocked by how people treated them, even just for how they were dressed.”

Supported during the ride by Mom’s Stop the Harm and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition – he raised close to $25,000 for their efforts through a now-completed GoFundMe campaign – he expected his ride to be over once he arrived in Vancouver on Jan. 29. But after resting his weary body for a week or so, he found a reservoir of energy and motivation to bring his message to Vancouver Island.

ALSO READ: Victoria bereavement group a ‘safe place’ for those who’ve lost loved ones to substance use

“I had so much hope and excitement from meeting so many people, I decided to keep going and come to the Island,” he said.

The large sign on his bike featuring the tour name piqued people’s interest and led to many conversations along the way.

“One of the things that stood out the most for me was everywhere you went, somebody had a story, whether it was fentanyl poisoning, mental illness – alcoholism came up a lot,” he said. “To me, this is a question of mental health. I put suicide and depression in there, too. And every day I’d meet people who had their own relationship to certain drugs.”

Pidskalny travelled to Nanaimo from the mainland and rode north to Campbell River before heading south again. He planned to meet up with some Island Health outreach workers and mental health advocates while in Victoria.

The bottom line, he said, echoing the mantra of Mom’s Stop the Harm, is Canada needs to rethink its drug policies and the stigmas around mental illness that lead people from all walks of life to use in secret, often unsafely. While the fundraiser is over, he encouraged people to continue the conversation as a way to erase that stigma.

RELATED READ: Greater Victoria Mental Health Resource Guide

Tenting since last May as a way to get more in touch with the struggles of people less fortunate, Pidskalny plans to settle in the Nanaimo area and try to find work.

Find photos from his journey on his Facebook page, and visit momsstoptheharm.com/ to support their efforts.


 

Do you have a story tip? Email:don.descoteau@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

fundraiseroverdose crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Smoke billows on the West Shore, April 16 around 12:15 p.m. (Black Press Media photo)
Saanich, View Royal firefighters respond as smoke spotted in Burnside West area

Multiple fire departments respond to area of Burnside West and Prospect Lake roads

A GoFundMe has been launched in memory of an eight-year-old boy who drowned at a Hotel Zed pool in Victoria on March 24. (Jane Andema/GoFundMe)
GoFundMe started in memory of 8-year-old boy who died at Hotel Zed pool

Child drowned after wandering off to the pool alone

This image shows northbound traffic on Highway 17 looking to turn west onto Keating Cross Road (far right top corner), crossing the southbound lane on Highway 17. A new flyover overpass promises to ease delays and improve safety, but the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is calling for revisions in joining other critics. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce calls for revisions to Central Saanich flyover overpass

Chamber deems current proposal necessary but insufficient in calling for full movement interchange

The Capital Regional Hospital District has approved awarding a tender to QM Environmental for the demolition and hazardous materials disposal of the Oak Bay Lodge. (Black Press Media File)
Winning bidder approved for Oak Bay Lodge demolition

Capital Regional Hospital District board approves $4.266 million budget for project

Rendering of the floating market space that is part of one of the two proposals for the Turkey Head and Oak Bay Marina properties. (Courtesy District of Oak Bay)
Oak Bay Marina questionnaire nets hundreds of responses

Mayor Kevin Murdoch impressed by the quality, quantity of input on two proposals

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

The Nanaimo Clippers’ game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs slated for Thursday, April 15, has been postponed due to a “potential positive COVID-19 test result,” says the BCHL. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers COVID-19 test negative, team can practise and play

Junior A hockey team had suspended activities the day before out of ‘abundance of caution’

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Most Read