Mother fights to save son lured by Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside  


Last year, more than 2,200 British Columbians died from toxic overdoses, according to the BC Coroner Service.

Ann Marie Sexton’s son, Chad, was one of the many people who died in 2021.

Now she’s fighting to help her younger son enter recovery.

The coastal city of Vancouver harbours a troubled neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside.

Plagued with poverty and substance use, it’s a place many call home, including Tim Gray.

Sexton says Tim was a charming young boy but fell in with the wrong crowd.

“You’re at that age trying to figure out who you are, you’re trying to find your identity, and you’re influenced so much by your peers, trying to fit in,” she said.

Gray entered an adult recovery program for crack cocaine at age 16 but would later relapse.

In 2009, after spending the majority of his life navigating the cycles of addiction, he was successful in leaving his addiction behind

“I was dating, pretty much somebody that I consider to be the love of my life. She ended up pregnant with my soon-to-be son,” he said, “I waited till I was in my 30s before I had a kid. I wanted to have a son.”

But a few years later, a car accident and a prescription to pain killers would lead him back down the road of addiction.

“I remember arguing with my brother, Chad, that passed away. He’d say, ‘you don’t even love them enough to stop?’ And I’d say, ‘you don’t get it, Chad.’”

Gray says he has lost countless friends to toxic drugs, including his younger brother Chad.

He says he’s hopeful in his plan to enter recovery and regain the life he once had.

Sexton says she hopes to see more families support their loved ones throughout their addiction.

“I kind of feel like we give them a little bit of our strength and we call them back to life. We remind them of who they are,” she said. “You are so much more, don’t forget that.”

Investigative Reporter

Brittany grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is a member of Northlands Dënesųłiné First Nation. She continues her studies at University of Winnipeg and has a keen interest in justice reporting. In 2019, she was selected as the third recipient of the CAJ/APTN Indigenous Investigative Fellowship and is now an Investigative Reporter with APTN Investigates.