All posts by k ward

Real Emergencies

Remember that fuss about the report that was released at the end of April 2019 by Dr Bonnie Henry, BC’s Provincial Health Officer: “Stopping the Harm: decriminalizing people who use drugs”? Apparently not really.

As I tried to say on the radio it’s not about decriminalizing substances-  it’s about decriminalizing people. Dr Henry got it exactly.

courtesy CBC On the Coast, April 24 2019

That means ending the ongoing exclusion of people who use drugs – but mostly low-income, racialized, mentally divergent people who use drugs – from the legal and civil norms conventional in mainstream society. It’s not  about whether or not you’re charged with possession or trafficking or whatever.

It’s about the process of becoming criminal and how people who use drugs think of themselves as being outside of the the law : it punishes us, it does not protect us. But this report asserts that the law belongs to us too because we are also citizens and that’s the point of decriminalizing people.

we have to stop the harm, because reducing all this is clearly not good enough


now this is a public health intervention

What the report says is that policing and ongoing criminalization is preventing people from accessing health services, from accessing all kinds of Public Services, keeping us in poverty, making people vulnerable to overdose and endangering lives. Criminalization is undermining all of the health related activities that have been authorized through the initial intervention back in December 2016.

And it’s not just another report by experts that goes into the air and things may be happening or maybe not. The report and its author, the Provincial Health Officer is authorized and empowered through the Public health act and this report has a particular force because of this state of emergency. It is not just another report.

As the Provincial Health Officer of BC,
I recommend that the Province of BC
urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

“Stopping the Harm” is addressed to the government of British Columbia, from a senior officer appointed by government to the people’s elected representatives. This is a high-level intervention, not to an individual minister but to the executive of the government of the province, to the premier and the cabinet, and four ministers.

Consider the precedent. let’s go back and think about the last time we were at day 1114 of a public health emergency oh wait.

This is how to deal with an emergency. This is the most extreme intervention that provincial law allows. It has never been done before.

We need the government to consider these recommendations. It will be painful. This is a terrible situation to face directly. We can help them by being honest and brave, but they must do the same. We gotta talk, and this recommendation must be considered by the people elected to do so.

Silence is death. The legislature, the cabinet table – these are the places where this discussion must happen now. Let’s all take it seriously — as seriously as we possibly can, and in the terms suggested by this report (among others): as a political issue. 

Appropriate Futures

hey everybody remember that whole thing with the Balmoral and the Regent

remember that thing with the expropriation

last year 

the expropriation

remember the expropriation of the hotels

before the buildings were SRO hotels

they were hotels

it wasnt that long ago, from a historical perspective.

but their function slowly slowly completely changed 

not imperceptively 

you might notice slow historical change

if you looked close   or from an angle

people dont want to notice, because that would make it real

not like now

(historical change is all up in your face)

anyway those days are over and that is the past now if it seemed and felt normal

normal is done.

we’re not going back to ‘normal’

also, normal sucked.

this is a fast emergency and fast fast change and nobody knows the future.

one more thing.

this is a really small thing that apparently needs to be said.

we’re not going to have mass tourism, cruise ships, events, big festivals and so on

for a really long time. historical-type time.

all that is over. 

yes i am a historian actually.

becoming social housing IS your bailout 

and lifeboat

take it


did you know ‘hotel’ and ‘hospital’ are derived from the same word

and there will be 1-3% of visitors as in the beforetimes and why would they i mean who takes the risk of boarding a plane to look at a pile of corpses and the monuments the survivors built for themselves and then sold to a corporate investor for a 3.4% profit on spec #vanre 


Re Alignment

A few weeks into a new system to access a safe supply of drugs there’s a few points I’ve noticed again and again – to summarize briefly, i hear it’s not perfect! Well no. It’s pandemic access. It’s Emergency Dope.

Well, They have to do better, more, different, etc. But you know They will never get it right. They can’t, because these programs – the clinical programs – are for them, not us. They have to do this or that – but who are you talking about, exactly?

Safe Supply for all is *our* responsibility. as users. And who will do it, in a good way, other than us? Access for all means creating many options. Nothing will work for everyone, except having choices. There are many possibilities, from clinical to legalized retail.

We can do it all, and more. It’s. not. a. competition. It’s a challenge to completely change the illicit economy into one that doesn’t kill people. There isn’t much time.

And it’s up to us. not Them.

Because if we don’t, no one will


this is just so upsetting.

nobody knows what will happen, just that the future will not be the same. it doesnt have to be worse. we make our own history, and these are new circumstances. we can make something better, even in this place.

we can try to UNkettle

written in pink ink on a building: "the end is here'

the downtown eastside, as it’s been all this time, or when i described it in september, is done. let us out of rat park, we all have to get out of this cage. we can un-kettle, we have to, its a moral error to maintain this – living without choices is what has made this place a trap.

we are packed shoulder to shoulder. its increasingly intense, violent, desperate.

we cant look out for each other, we cant keep social distance, we cant Stay Safe because we can’t Stay Home. we dont have the option and we dont have the space and people are still out there hustling all day. everyone will continue to go out for their stuff until we create multiple routes of access to Safe Supply, because no-barrier for all is actually having lots of choices.

housing, food, incomes, occupation, safe supply, and each other, and its not for us, but FROM us to reduce the harm that the rest of the world faces too. all of us.

so —

Housing now, no NOW: people would stay home if they had homes or anywhere to go. not more shelters but transition centres sure. many people arent set to separate – which is understandable. street families, ie small groups of four or five could move into vacant storefronts everywhere. i bet tourism vancouver would agree to facilitate getting people into hotel rooms, thousands of them, right away. a small percentage of the vacant rooms.

this is not a short-term problem. the tourism industry is over. routing the $375/month to owner per room may ease the come-down for the hotels, but this is done.

moratorium on evictions, obviously rent freeze for duration.

Knowledge: i asked mark about this : grad students from the ubc school of population & public health out on the street answering questions. people need knowledge (good dope) and consistent sources of information. this is a super-intelligent but low-information population

– at least temporarily, a hub to accept and redistribute donations. maybe the Merchant’s Bank building? it’s empty. i dont think they will be renting that out anytime soon…

– creating social distance: ffs no non-essential vehicles on hastings from abbott to dunlevy.

-food depots, one per block, distributing standardized care packs daily. in storefronts.

– we would also like INTERNET thanks and about 4000 phones and 2000 tablets and 2000 laptops

– Income – no one has any reserves, there’s no food, we can’t trade. So-called “crimes” are anxiety-related and about poverty. increase shelter rate and clearly everyone needs a basic income

-if everyone has a bank account, they can choose for themselves when and how they receive their assistance. this isnt complicated (i despise the BCCSU for BCCSUing all over this. among other reasons). the poverty/binge economy + monthly cash dump ISNT THE BEST

– we should probably create a poor people’s bank, but not a crap one

– the police have to not arrest people for survival “crime” and people who arent convicted of anything shouldnt be in jail at all. also – no police.

– defund & dissolve CCAP

– join the Carnegie Community Centre Association board

– take over the Carnegie

– i’ll do those last three

– yes this is my plan

we’re running out of time

[slightly revised from a facebook post}