Submitted by Tammy Theis, senior communications consultant, Communications & Public Affairs

Burnaby and New Westminster Community Action Tables create a safe place to come together to make art, connections and meaning.

When Dawn Livera was invited to host art workshops aimed at helping people who use substances address the shame they feel, the Burnaby artist heartily agreed, saying “a big part of the reason I teach art is to help people address negative perceptions and beliefs they often have about themselves and others. The idea of an anti-stigma group felt like a good fit.”

Dawn adds that art practice starts with the belief that everyone is an artist and should be able to express themselves without feeling that they aren't "good enough.”

“I worked in social services for several years doing parent education and eating disorder prevention work but I feel like I can reach people, with the same messages but in a more fun way through art,” Dawn says.

In collaboration with project coordinators, peer coordinators and New West Artists, Burnaby and New Westminster Community Action Teams held a series of anti-stigma art workshops to create a safe place where peers could express themselves through art-making, learn new skills, make connections and have fun.

Community Action Teams (CATs) were established in 35 communities across the province in 2016 in response to the overdose public health emergency. They’re made up of public health nurses and harm reduction coordinators from Fraser Health, people representing community organizations, people and families with lived/living experience of substance use, first responders and community members who work collectively on projects to reduce overdoses. One of the primary goals of the CATs is to address stigma and discrimination and encourage social inclusion and connection.

Robbin Sheriland, president of New West Artists says “visualization is a powerful technique. When workshop participants learned and applied it, the lights came on. There were several ah-ha moments that we should have captured on camera, but we were too busy laughing. I live for those moments. On behalf of New West Artists, we are grateful for this opportunity to contribute.”

The art created during the workshops will be displayed in local libraries. The collaborative piece created by Burnaby CAT peers is on display now at the Tommy Douglas Library in Burnaby, will move to the McGill Library mid-August and then the Cameron Library early September.

New Westminster CAT (from left to right): Hedy Wolff, Justin Snyder, Ella McMillan, Jason McMillan, Sydney Andrews, Ronda Cummings, Dawn Livera

The art pieces created by New Westminster CAT peers will be displayed at Hyack Square on August 31 to mark International Overdose Awareness Day and at the New Westminster Pubic Library in October/November. 

Anti-stigma literature and resources will be available at the library events.

Burnaby CAT (from left to right): Gail Madanayake, Jayson Prefontaine, Kim Isbister, Dilpreet Thiara, Jason McMillan, Hedy Wolff, Dawn Livera and Vanessa Watts.

Peer participant Jason McMillan says “I wanted to participate because it’s important to me to get out of my comfort zone. It has helped me grow as a person. It gives me a better outlook and makes me open to new ideas. I am hoping to gain a positive attitude. Every time I’ve done something out of my norm, I’ve learned something.”

Get involved with your Community Action Team:

Learn more about more about overdose prevention at

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