‘STEINBACH IN CRISIS’: More will die, says grieving mother

A grieving mother says people need to watch out for signs that someone they know might be using opioids or street drugs like purple down.

For the last few years, anytime Christine Maynard-Balcaen saw her son, she knew that his addictions were spiralling out of control, and she worried he might not live much longer.

Sadly her fears became a reality last week when she got the news that a body had been discovered in Steinbach that she now knows is the body of her son Ryan.

“All of a sudden in late 2021, Ryan had lost a lot of weight and he just looked bad, and he finally admitted to me what he was doing,” Christine said on Monday about her son Ryan Cody Maynard, a 29-year-old who was reported missing in November of last year in Steinbach, and had been missing for months leading up to the discovery of his body last Wednesday on Hespeler Street in Steinbach.

“And he told me that what he was doing was a new drug called purple down, and that it was an addiction that was just beating him down.

“He just said, ‘you don’t understand, this is destroying me.’”

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In January, Winnipeg police (WPS) put out a statement warning the public about purple down, a street drug they said is a mixture of fentanyl, carfentanyl, and often heroin, and one that is highly toxic and addictive, and was making its way more and more into Manitoba communities.

According to Christine, her son had a history of addictions, but she said the new street drug had become so addictive that he lost his home, his job, was living on the streets, and could only have supervised visits with his daughter.

“Things just spiralled very bad, and very quickly,” she said.

Christine said when she heard the news that a body had been discovered last Wednesday in Steinbach, she felt certain the dead man was her son, and she immediately went to the address where the discovery had been reported.

“I walked up to an RCMP officer there, and I just screamed, is it Ryan? Is it Ryan?”

As of Monday, the identity of the dead man had not been officially released by RCMP, but police said last week they did believe it was connected to an ongoing missing persons investigation in Steinbach, and Christine said although an autopsy is still ongoing, said has been told by police and by a coroner that tattoos found on the body match tattoos that were on her son’s body.

“We are certain it’s him, and although we don’t know if this was an overdose, or a suicide, or violence, what we do know is that it all goes back to, and it’s all related to drugs,” she said.

According to Christine, her son had multiple mental health issues that went undiagnosed when he was a child, and she said he turned to “self-medicating” to deal with those issues.

“I just wish we would have dealt with that side of it earlier, because if we had fixed the mental health issues it might have prevented everything else that happened, but we were in a small town, there were very few resources, and back then mental health was not understood or even talked about the way it is now,” she said.

“He didn’t want to be an addict, no one wants to be an addict. A lot of times these are people that are just very broken.”

Christine said while she waits for results from the autopsy, she is warning parents and all Manitobans to watch out for signs that someone they know might be using opioids or street drugs like purple down.

“I believe we are looking at a full-blown opioid crisis in Steinbach, and I honestly don’t even know if the addictions services are equipped to deal with this drug, because of how quickly it can completely take over a life,” she said.

“If one good thing can come out of this, I hope this will bring this crisis to light, because we need to bring this to light.

“We need to have an honest conversation, because if we bury our heads in the sand, then more people are going to get addicted, and more people are going to die.”

She added despite the challenges her son faced, she will also remember him for the person he was, and for the good times they shared during his life.

“Everyone who knew him said he was the most loyal friend, he would give you the shirt off his back, and when he wasn’t using, he was just a nice normal fun guy who had this great laugh,” Christine said.

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“I will always have those good memories too, and I will always cherish them.”

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