The blue-collar town of Kamloops has been riven by accidents, overdoses and suicides. After losing several friends, one writer returned to find out why

I grew up in Kamloops, a small blue-collar city in British Columbia about 350km north-west of Vancouver. Kamloops wasn’t the middle of nowhere, but at the time it felt pretty close. I moved there with my family when I was in grade five, and early on my fate felt sealed: I was a mediocre student, and not good enough at hockey to catch the eyes of the scouts. The city’s small-town feel was coupled with a sense of isolationism, and in high school my friends and I spent our nights crashing house parties, playing hockey, getting into fights, drinking and taking drugs.

When we graduated high school, it felt like a vast open field – part economic wasteland, part basecamp at the foot of a daunting mountain. Some of us went to college, but it seemed the only way to make substantial money was to join the resource labour force. My career options seemed limited to a local mine, mill, warehouse or oilfield.

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