April 13, 2012
Re: “Condo building protested as threat to ‘drug market’” (Globe and Mail, Thursday April 12 2012)
Dear Mayor and Councillors,
We are writing to ask for your support of the low-income community in the Downtown Eastside, and particularly those of us who use illicit drugs against discriminatory attitudes which surfaced in the media today. We hope that you can take this opportunity to publicly clarify that displacing low-income people, including low-income illicit drug users, is against Vancouver city council policy and that council will not consider development projects that promise such violent displacement.Sequel 138 Developer Marc Williams is apparently unconcerned about the increased violence that people who use illicit drugs will face if the City okays his condo development against the wishes of the community. The article in the Globe and Mail by Wendy Stueck, “Condo building protested as threat to ‘drug market’,” appeals to a sentiment we often see reflected in the media; that illicit drug users should be displaced, that low-income people do not deserve to live close to the downtown core, that the Downtown Eastside is a ghetto, a slum, a dead or dying place that should be destroyed. We know that these are ideas of a vocal (and usually anonymous) minority of people who live in Vancouver. Most people are compassionate and caring and recognize drug use as a health and social justice issue. However, we worry about the effects of Marc Williams and Wendy Stueck’s ideas being published unchallenged. Like you did with your important response and condemnation of the “Too Asian” McLeans article in the fall, we hope that you can help push back against such hateful, poor bashing, anti-drug user discrimination.
The evidence is clear that disruption and displacement of drug markets does not result in a reduction of drug supply, or a decrease in drug use. It does result in greater street violence as drug sellers, often people who are themselves addicted to drugs and are paid in drugs, compete for new turf. It results in greater violence and dangers for people who use drugs who have to seek out new sellers of the illicit drugs to which they are addicted, a process fraught with insecurity, violence, and danger of poisoning or overdose. Women are particularly vulnerable in this process as sexual exploitation is common between drug sellers and women who are addicted to drugs.
These are serious public health concerns affecting some of the most oppressed and marginalized citizens of our city, 4,700 people who use illicit drugs in the Downtown Eastside. Marc Williams’ callous unconcern for the health and safety of people who use illicit drugs is reflective of his general lack of concern about how his profit making venture will affect our neighbourhood.
We understand that an important overarching policy of the city in the Downtown Eastside is “revitalization without displacement.” We know that there is not a footnote that says, “except illicit drug users.” We are asking you to make a public statement and clarify this for those like Marc Williams who seems to be confused as he is proposing a development that he promises will disrupt our community, displace us and push us into the dark corners of the city, compromising our safety and well being to the profits of developers like him.
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users