British Columbia·Feature

'Good riddance' to 2016: Vancouverites hope for a happy new year

From a province-wide opioid crisis to the war in Syria, many Canadians have dubbed 2016 to be a rocky year for the world as a whole. But some British Columbians are hopeful that 2017 will be a new beginning.

Fentanyl epidemic, celebrity deaths, and the U.S. election continue to weigh on Canadians, poll suggests

Armstrong plays his harmonica near the south steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery during what he refers to as the lunch rush. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

With just two days left in 2016, Tim Armstrong stands on a cold and rainy street corner outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

He takes a moment to think over the last year while he plays his harmonica, trying to earn some spare change from the many passersby enjoying their lunch break.

The first thing that comes to his mind is the number of lives lost in the deadly fentanyl epidemic — many of whom were his friends.

"We've lost 750 people," he says, as tears begin to swell. 

"This is ridiculous. Whoever is in control of it, wherever it's coming from, whoever's organizing it and making big bucks off of it needs to be stopped."

Vancouver resident and harmonica player Tim Armstrong is fed up with how the provincial government has handled the opioid epidemic, having lost many friends over the last year. He hopes in 2017, they will finally be able to 'stop fentanyl'. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

This has been a hard year for many people.

From the opioid crisis in B.C., to the raging war in Syria that's left millions displaced, many Canadians believe the last year was a negative one, according to a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute.

"[Canadians] are saying they can't get rid of 2016 soon enough," said Shachi Kurl, director of the institute. "They would like to tie this year off, put it in a box, throw the box in a dumpster, and set the dumpster on fire."

According to the poll, more than half of Canadians believe the year was "bad for their province," while more than two thirds believed 2016 was a rough one for the world overall.

CBC News hit the streets to find out how Vancouverites felt about 2016 — and how humanity can improve in the new year.

Stephanie: Give back

Stephanie Lam says there are many people and causes in need of charitable donations, and thinks the new year is a great opportunity for them to get the spotlight they deserve. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

If you're walking downtown on your lunch break, Stephanie Lam might try to trade you a Krispy Kreme donut in exchange for a dollar donation to UNICEF.

With over 150 million children living in extreme poverty across the planet, she says it's never been more important to give back.

"We're super fortunate to be here in Vancouver and we're blessed with so many different luxury items," she said.

Whether it's donating dollars or hours, Lam hopes people will be more mindful of those less fortunate in all corners of the globe as they enter the new year.

"It's so important for the future — not only in 2017, but for the years to come."

Paul: Be tolerant

Paul Denis says there's an underbelly of racism and intolerance that still persists throughout the province, but he has a message for those afflicted: there is hope. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Paul Denis is one of the resident comic book aficionados at Granville Street's Golden Age Collectables.

He contends that 2016 uncovered racial tensions in Canada and the skeleton in the closet needs to be addressed.

"We do have to open up a line of dialogue in order to confront and talk about this," he said.

Denis is one of the resident comic book experts at Golden Age Collectables on Granville street, a space where many complimented him on his festive holiday sweater throughout the day. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

He says the racist flyers that emerged both in Ontario and B.C. were extremely troubling.

"We need to say, 'Look, there's an undercurrent [of racism]. Why is it here, and how do we deal with it?'"

Angela and Lauren: Spread the love

Angela Cichos and Lauren Tomic say they were both devastated by the passing of both George Michael and Carrie Fisher within three days. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

While many tragic events dominated news headlines throughout the year, best friends Angela Cichos and Lauren Tomik say the passing of actress Carrie Fisher was the icing on the cake.

"She was an icon for a lot of people growing up," said Tomic. "She was one of the first princesses on screen ... and now she's gone."

The deaths of many iconic celebrities and artists will forever loom over 2016, but Tomic says we should embrace what we still have instead of dwell on what we've lost.

"Everyone just needs to be more positive. Spread the love," she said.

Follow Jon Hernandez on Twitter @jonvhernandez