Resignation or removal of Clr. Tim Stevenson, City of Vancouver

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On July 26, Vancouver City Council considered a resolution that involved the allocation of the remaining funds from the so-called “fentanyl tax”, a .5% levy on property taxes. Of the $3.4 million fund, the grants to be awarded totalled $601K.

These grants were specifically allocated to organizations that worked with the most affected populations -- that is, with the people who are dying, in the hundreds. And consideration was explicitly given to organizations that are peer-run and are engaged in harm reduction in the widest sense in this situation, that is, reducing harm by fighting death and extinction.

The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users has long been engaged in this process. The entire fund could have been deployed more effectively, and bravely. This is about life and death: our lives and our deaths.

As our friends die, week after week, day by day, people in the Downtown Eastside asked why this was happening. We talk about it all the time, even when we cannot speak.

At the council meeting, Councillor Tim Stevenson made it very clear why we are dying. “There’s a spiritual aspect,” he began, in a prelude to a question.

“Several years ago, I was in Thailand and there, the police, the army actually, went through Bangkok picking up people who were addicted, putting them in trucks, and taking them out to these kinda retreat centres out in the country, for two years, and the success rate was amazing, and then they went into the villages….”

Thus did Clr. Stevenson, an out gay man who lived through the first public health crisis of HIV/AIDS in the 1990s when VANDU began, someone who should understand what it means and how dangerous it is to be outside community, to be talked about by people with power as a problem to be solved and not as a human at all. Of course he should have understood that.

And this matters. “Solutions” like his show exactly how stigma and discrimination, and policy based on them, explains why we are dying. When policy makers believe that drug users are not even human, when our lives mean nothing, we’re taken out of the city too.

Injustice is fatal.

At the August 10, 2017 meeting of the VANDU Board of Directors, we unanimously passed a resolution. We call for the immediate resignation of Councillor Tim Stevenson, and we furthermore call on the Mayor and Council of the City of Vancouver to seek his removal from office and the position of Deputy Mayor.

We encourage all citizens of Vancouver to stand with us, and fight against death and hate, and refuse to allow this slaughter to continue. The judgement of history will otherwise be severe indeed. We all must do better; we must together stop this crysis.

Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users