Canadian Mayor Apologizes for Sharing Fake Story About Teen's Overdose Death

By Victoria Kim 02/08/18

Though the misinformation the mayor shared had the potential to be harmful and stigmatizing, he took responsibility for his mistake.

teen vaping

After trying to illustrate the extent of the opioid problem in his town, the mayor of a small Canadian village is biting his tongue after realizing that he shared what amounted to nothing more than a rumor.

Mayor Karl Buhr of the small seaside village of Lions Bay north of Vancouver said in a January council meeting that a friend of his 14-year-old son had died after taking one hit of vape juice laced with fentanyl.

“The kid who plays on his soccer team and baseball team last year, his best friend, died yesterday after taking one hit from a vape that had fentanyl in it,” said the mayor in a recording from the Jan. 23 meeting. “Bought the ‘juice,’ they call it, from a dealer at Rockridge (School). One hit, fell down dead in front of his friends.”

Apparently, someone heard the recording that was posted online, and brought it up with the School District. “Turns out much of the story I told was an urban myth,” Mayor Buhr admitted in a Feb. 2 statement.

He speculated that the rumor may have been based on a recent tragedy in the city of Delta, which lies south of Vancouver, where 14-year-old Kyle Losse died in late January. According to the Vancouver Sun, the baseball star is believed to have fallen and struck his head in his bathroom at home, causing a fatal head injury. He was using an e-cigarette at the time, though it’s yet unclear if that had anything to do with his death. Buhr said there are “a dozen versions” of the story that have been circulating since.

“You’d think even an amateur, small-town politician would know better than to repeat hearsay, because upon further enquiry, I found that nothing happened at Rockridge, there was never laced vape juice, and what likely did happen was elsewhere and for other causes,” Buhr continued in his statement. “I apologize to all affected by my incorrect statement.”

However, the mayor said his error should not distract the people of Lions Bay from the real opioid problem there. “That said, opioids are here, and Lions Bay is particularly not unscathed.”

He said he shared the story to illustrate the extent of British Columbia’s opioid problem, not excluding Lions Bay. In 2017, the BC Coroners Service counted 1,422 illicit drug overdose deaths across the province.

“I think a lot of people are in denial,” said the mayor, citing several overdose deaths among Lions Bay teens in recent years. “I hear a lot of people saying ‘That’s never going to happen here.’ That gets my goat.”

Though the misinformation Buhr shared had the potential to be harmful and stigmatizing, he took responsibility for his mistake. “It probably has damaged my credibility,” he said, according to CTV. “I don’t want my ham-fistedness to detract from the real message, which is: these things are everywhere. This particular incident wasn’t as reported, but there are 10 stories like this a day and they are real, so what are we doing about it?”

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