Category Archives: crysis

Decriminalize Yourself

april 24 2019:

clip courtesy of cbc vancouver On The Coast

The Provincial Report is here. Below is the formal recommendation, quoted in full.

Recommendation

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.

Decriminalization is an evidence-based approach to drug policy that is effective in reducing harms related to substance use when reinforced with complementary measures of harm reduction, prevention, enforcement, social support, and treatment.

Redirecting police time and resources away from the enforcement of simple possession offences reduces barriers, including fear and
stigma, and facilitates a linkage to treatment and harm reduction services.

There is precedent for this in otherjurisdictions (e.g., Portugal), with evidence of success that can be applied and leveraged in BC. Specifically, criteria can be determined for (a) the threshold amount
of substance that can be possessed for personal use; (b) assessment of appropriate penalties; (c) how to offer and connect people to treatment; and (d) when the case should be referred to criminal court. In BC, local assessment committees could be established in each health service delivery area, with an option for those living in rural and remote areas to access the committee via teleconference or video conference.

I advise the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to engage with the Attorney General and the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to determine how BC can move to decriminalize people in possession of illegal drugs for personal use, using the discretionary powers vested in public safety
officials and the policy role of the Director of Police Services.

tasked

In the next few days – no earlier than wed. dec 12, and no later than friday (i guess), a report and some recommendations will be released from the city for council to consider the following week. it is the result of the meetings held in the last few weeks. it’s been a scramble and that was the easy part. 

the Community Action Team meeting last week would have been to venue for people to ask (as there were many city employees present) who was on the mayor’s advisory panel, or what my role was (as obviously i am not representing an organization or a member of one), since apparently what i do is a distracting concern for some.

during the meeting itself, i was accused by a VANDU member of not doing enough to address drug user labour issues, which is the closest i’ve ever been to punching someone in the face at a city meeting. This is a good indication, though, of the level of general dysfunction as well as the specific tone of the anti-me (in particular) resentment, well over a year after my resignation from the place. 

so now we’ve come to a place where at a meeting of mostly drug users, convened by the mayor of vancouver, we have one person accussing another drug user of not doing enough for drug users, and some people parroting a bunch of nonsense condemning the meeting for even happening and making no difference, while it is happening, and they are in the room.

i don’t know, for example, if anyone took a moment afterward and thought “wait, does the mayor of this city or any other call a meeting of drug users in their first month in office, to consult with them on social policy as it relates to overdose? is that the usual thing?” 

it’s really not. 

perhaps you’ve heard about anti-drug user stigma. the mayor could easily NOT have convened a meeting. or had an emergency task force at all. it would have been easier to just do a bunch of random things, and not associate himself publicly with drug users (as sensibly cautious politicians do).

i don’t find sensibly cautious politicians very interesting or fun to hang out with or helpful in terms of our overall policy goals (particularly the “drug users not dying like this” goal). and it will take a lot of support and help for him, as an independent, to get something bold passed by this council next week.

“it’s the same old people on the advisory,” i heard someone say. again, really, no. there are drug users on it. i am on it, and so i am busy, advising. i don’t represent an organization or agency and i don’t work for anyone (including “the City”). it is not the same old people, and i wouldn’t be on an advisory if i thought that nobody was listening.

actually, what i’d like is for drug user organizations to notice that there is a drug user on the advisory, and when doing so, support my (unpaid) efforts, rather than call for me to be removed. maybe even those organizations could suggest that i should be employed to oversee the implementation of the plans that i have been working on, and paid to do so, like people are. at the very least, if they are interested in their members at all, the leadership of these organizations could facilitate access to accurate information. 

i remember going on about how not listening had everything to do with why all this happened, that there are consequences to silence (in this case, silencing drug users’ warnings about the potential mass casualty event fentanyl could cause), way back in May when, as Kennedy pointed out, we started discussing ideas for ending this at the Ovaltine. 

historically trained

i’ve been thinking about the ways we take care of our past. and the ways we don’t. and how it gets written over and over.  and sometimes people are more concerned with taking care of the past than they are about casually discarding human lives in the present day.

as you may know, i have historical training.

so while trying to avoid some task, i came across a lost folder – an archive. the fact that this document exists is a testament to qualities not conventional among public officials –to understand that our lives are an ongoing argument to mean in the world, which as i understand it, is to become what we are seeking, rather than demand it of others, and refuse to situate ourselves as endlessly lacking, rejecting the power we inherently have. or, in Tracey’s words, “don’t ask if you’d never give.” i’ve tried to follow through with a bit of the stuff she was working on. and in doing so have learned a lot about government. much of which, as any reasonable person, i didn’t want to know. but holy shit people, am i glad i did.

and if it’s not clear, i do consider the obscenely exploitative and stipended poverty-dependent local activist culture among the primary causes of her death. exploitation and enforcement is a good deal at 10$/hr in this housing market when people are this poor. i’ve done as much as i can at this time to point out these contradictions and hypocrises, and seriously people, this is your fight.

we talked a lot about what the downtown eastside means, and all that had to be figured out. she loved it and she was rooted here but was of more than this place, through relations and connections and networks locally unperceived.

i am not sure if this was posted publicly when i was at vandu, or by the city at the time. it would take me 4-8 hours to prove, one way or the other conclusively, and nobody is paying me right now to do that or even anything i am actually good at or might possibly even enjoy.

on the editorial history i am a little unclear. in any case, this is the city’s proclamation of Tracey Morrison Day, July 21, 2017.

PROC - Tracey Morrison Day - July 21 2017-1 - Edited

for this and much else, thanks Andrea

when his friend c.s. lewis died, tolkien was shaken. he wrote that he was  “like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.” and he was over 60 then — he was an orphan at twelve, he was in the mud of the “great war” and on his return all his close friends were dead — and as his authentic self, a tree, experiences lewis’ thoroughly natural death as a near-sunderinng from the earth itself 

i first read that last winter.  it stops my heart, and i don’t have a sense of rootedness. or a family. i said in 2014 that the neighbourhood was the closest thing i know to what people meant by “home.” that tentative sense has been gone for about 15 months. it seems to me that most people in the DTES who have been affected by (ie. seen up close) the realities of the “overdose crisis” in this place, have been changed profoundly. to claim otherwise is to embrace denial and a perverse stoicism. or people keep themselves busy – anything as long as there’s never a moment to think – or get really involved with researching the derangement of their senses, or become so involved they can believe themselves indispensible to the situation, invincible, and later indifferent, while the bodies pile up.

i reject that completely. the DTES was predisposed to react in these ways. in fact we were all already traumatized and damaged before this all happened.

i need a bit of time to think. so i’ll take this.

i presume she’d laugh at some of the absurd situations i have found myself in; others she’d enjoy for rather different reasons. but there was an election, the meter has clicked over, i did what i could. wondering what she’d make of all this.

Some people, even elders say, this is sick land, meaning it’s bad land, right. And well, it could be, but you know, how sick could it be when this is where I found compassion, friendship, family, love, hope, faith in people – this is where I found it.

i remember this conversation, her speaking with an elder. we continued walking down the street to deal with some messed up shit that was happening. we talked about that conversation later, though. “maybe its too sick right now,” she said then, and added quietly, “we have to heal ourselves first.”

there’s clearly no interest among the surviving powers in the neighbourhood to do anything different, acknowledge some collective wrong, and rethink the way all our interactions are about power. and i don’t share Tracey’s faith, especially faith in people, not after all this. so i’m not not interested in continuing in this manner, in maintaining these ways of living, or working , or being, in this place.

“that’s just how it is down here,” i hear all the time. “that’s how people are,” i heard often (when i talked to people more). such beliefs condemn even the possibility of positive change as naive – this reflex condemnation is another reason why we are in this mess. so, much thanks, therefore, for showing me (or reminding me?) that these beliefs are both bullshit and chickenshit at the same time. and that there are others. and nothing needs to be this way, down here or anywhere else. there’s nothing natural or acceptable about this disaster. 

on Hastings, it’s just more rain

to quote gord downie, i had a job before this. like – everyone – some of my interests and skills are not about despair. but even i find myself difficult to be around, and i’m concerned that i’m going to start hating the neighbourhood (as so many of its self-appointed ‘leaders’ do, which explains a lot). so if i’m ever going to be any help to anyone around here, i need a few steps back from this. and it’s a little silly to be this frustrated both that i can’t do exactly what i want and that i quit too many jobs.

i need to get back to my other work, and see if i can find it. and i need a break. seriously, at least 6 or 8 months. away from vancouver entirely. i have some writing to do. i haven’t been out of town for years. i have zero 100% reliable income other than disability, no resources, nowhere to be. things to do; i’m restless.