Letter from five members of DULF's compassion club

In response to the arrest of Eris Nyx and Jeremy Kalicum and the raids of two homes and the DULF office, five members of DULF’s Compassion Club pilot project wish to share the following statement.

Letter from five members of DULF's compassion club
DULF's compassion club provided tested heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to forty-three people surviving the unregulated drug poisoning crisis in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. On October 25, two of its organizers were arrested and the operation was raided by Vancouver Police. DULF's compassion club. Photo by Jackie Dives.

To protect their safety, the five DULF compassion club members remain anonymous. Here is their statement:

The DULF Compassion Club pilot project was in operation for just over one year. Throughout this time, we had access to a predictable, clean and tested supply of heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. The importance of this access cannot be overstated. For years, we have struggled to navigate the increasingly toxic drug supply. For years, we’ve talked about what it would mean to have a safe supply of drugs, shouting “safe supply or we die” at every march and rally.

We have lost friends, family, loved ones. So many we’ve lost count. We fill up notebooks with their names, grasping tightly to their memories, carrying their spirits in the fight for a better world that wouldn’t have killed them. We live with the painful knowledge that their deaths were preventable.

It’s so easy to die when you don’t know what you’re getting and where it’s been. The street supply continues to get worse every day the drug war continues. Benzos, pig dewormer (levamisole), horse tranquilizers (xylazine / “tranq”), the list goes on. With DULF’s drugs, we knew what we were getting.

With no one coming to save us, DULF stepped up, showing the world that safe supply truly can save lives. We did our due diligence, we jumped through the bureaucratic hoops applying for a Section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Though this application was denied, the dying of our friends and family did not stop.

The Compassion Club continued with full transparency. At the one-year mark, a formal evaluation proved what we knew all along, and what government failed and continues to fail to recognize: Low-barrier, community-led access to a regulated drug supply equals improved health and social outcomes including reduced overdoses, deaths, hospitalizations, violence, and negative police interactions. Not one overdose was known to be caused by DULF’s supply.

The word “Compassion” literally means “to struggle together.” And struggle together we do, often at great personal risk. We do it because we have to: to save ourselves, to save each other, to create a more just and equitable present and future. Long before cannabis was legalized, cannabis compassion clubs opened illegally during the AIDS crisis to provide safe access to marijuana. In the midst of the HIV and AIDS epidemics along with the overdose crisis of the 1990s, other once-illegal responses were also necessary including sterile needle distributions and the opening of unsanctioned safe injection sites. Without these laws being broken, many more of us would have suffered, many more of us would have died.

The recent attacks on DULF are political. We were enraged to see the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions so quickly bend to rightwing politicians smearing DULF’s name. With MMHA Minister Jennifer Whiteside giving the order, Vancouver Coastal Health pulled the funding used to support DULF’s overdose prevention site and drug checking program. The loss of this OPS and drug checking service was devastating to us.

Even more devastating is the arrest of Eris and Jeremy. We speak out in support of their actions with DULF, actions that opened up possibilities for us, for our community, and for drug users and people everywhere. The possibility to stay alive, and even to thrive.

Today our survival hangs on by a thread. One of us Compassion Club members had 5 friends die within one week of DULF’s site closing. Two in the same night. Where now do you think we’ll get our drugs from? How many more people will die? This was working, and now we’re left with nothing.

The sequence of events has left us with the question: Maybe the end goal is to not have any of us around anymore? And what else are we supposed to think? Drug users are being scapegoated for all the failures of our broken system. We’re low hanging fruit. It’s easy, you can always blame the drug user. Vilify, criminalize, stigmatize: Makes it so you want to crawl away and hide. These are lies. The public is being let down. We are a part of society - we work, we rent, we walk these streets, we love, we are everyone.

We are human beings. We are survivors. We use drugs for different reasons, and our reasons may change - we use drugs for pain management, for our incurable grief, for relief, for joy, to get through the day, to get through the night. We are reminded of this quote from former BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall: “We need to recognize that it’s not deviant or pathological for humans to desire to alter their consciousness with psychoactive substances. They’ve been doing it since pre-history… and it can be in a religious context, it can be in a social context, or it can be in the context of symptom management.”

People have always used drugs, but the war on drugs hasn’t always been with us. It was here in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that the war on drugs was born. The federal government responded to 1907’s racist riot targeting Chinatown by prohibiting opium. Prohibition has always been tied to colonization, racism, and greed, as a weapon of control over poor and racialized communities. This legacy endures, and while the war on drugs has been widely and repeatedly recognized as a complete and total failure it continues to this day. It was born here, and here it must end.

The DULF Compassion Club should be celebrated for saving our lives, for giving us a future. Not just for us, but for drug users everywhere. It was and is the right thing to do – simple. We stand firmly behind Eris and Jeremy and demand they not be charged. We ask the public to loudly and proudly stand with us to defend Eris and Jeremy and continue the fight. The fight for our lives, our future, for safe supply, compassion, and liberation. We urge the VPD to stand down, and for all health officials and politicians at every level of government to get on the right side of history. There are lives at stake, and don’t you have enough blood on your hands already?


Members of DULF’s Compassion Club pilot project

November 2023

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