The War Stops Here! Ending drug prohibition in the DTES and beyond

A Community Dialogue

Saturday, Sept 22, 2012
9:30 am – 6:00 pm
Oppenheimer Park, Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, BC
Unceded Coast Salish Territory

Drug Prohibition uses criminalization as a means to reduce or eliminate the production, distribution and use of certain substances. As a social policy, it has been a costly failure. The financial and material resources necessary to implement it are staggering, and the various human and social costs to individuals, families and communities caught in the drug war are devastating. The persistence of prohibition, despite its obvious futility, indicates that it serves other purposes or interests. It has long functioned as a tool of race and class based social control, legitimized the expansion of the state’s militarized policing powers, and been used to justify and fund imperialist intervention and proxy wars.

On the local front, the Downtown Eastside has borne the wounds, fractures, diseases and deaths that prohibition produces, and its residents carry the alienating stigma that criminalization generates. Overdose deaths, murdered and missing women, the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hep C, child apprehensions, needless incarceration, daily police harassment and intimidation –all flow from living under the regime of drug prohibition.

It’s time to move beyond prohibition towards a framework that recognizes the desire for altered states of consciousness as a normal part of human behaviour, that develops drug policy based on public health and social justice, and that begins to address the social roots of addiction. We need to set drug use within the framework of collective self-determination and social justice not punishment and exclusion.

The Downtown Eastside has long been ground zero for the war on drugs, but it is also the site of some of the most powerful and dynamic challenges to the paradigm of prohibiton. The drug war began here over a century ago; now it’s time to stop it here.

This community gathering will open up space for popular education and dialogue around prohibition, and build momentum toward strategies for social change.

Special guest speaker: Deborah Peterson Small
Deborah Small is Executive Director of Break the Chains, an organization that seeks to build a national movement within communities of color against punitive drug policies. Break the Chains’ ultimate goal is to implement progressive drug reform policies that promote racial justice and human rights. Before assuming her position at Break the Chains, she was Director of Public Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. 

Sponsored by:
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society
Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
End Prohibition Project

6th Annual March for Women’s Housing and March Against Poverty

Saturday, September 15 @ 1:30 pm
Starts outside Downtown Eastside Women’s Center (Cordova and Columbia), just west of Main St., Unceded Coast Salish Territories






* Homes for People, not Profit for Real Estate!
* Homes not Jails!
* Homes not Pipelines!
* Rent Control not Social Control!

Join the Downtown Eastside Women Centre Power of Women Group as we continue to march for housing, childcare, and healthcare for all low-income residents in the DTES. We want no more evictions, no more displacement, and no more gentrification in our neighourhood. We know that the growing number of cops and condos in the DTES is part of a larger pattern to destroy and privatize neighourboods, communities, and the land. We want to live free: free from BC Housing controls, free from violence against women, and free from this system that is hurting and killing us.

We invite groups to bring their banners and anything else for our festive march. All genders are welcome and celebrated. Please bring your drums and regalia. This march is child-friendly and there will be a rest-vehicle for elders. Spread the word! Email: or phone: 778 885 0040

50th Anniversary of Medicare in Canada |

Medicare and class struggle |

This past July, Saskatchewan celebrated the 50th anniversary of medicare as the first province to achieve a public health insurance system in Canada. People’s Health Radio interviews health activist Maija Kagis to look back on the grassroots struggles and people’s organizing that led to this victory. This is followed by a discussion of the class politics of current efforts to dismantle medicare, efforts to defend it, and the need for a broader struggle for a health system that truly puts people’s health first.

Featuring music by Zachary Lucky, “Saskatchewan” and Sweatshop Union, “Lead the Way”.

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to Occupied Palestine: Encroachment, resistance and criminalizaition |

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to Occupied Palestine: Encroachment, resistance and criminalizaition |

Part 1 of the show looks at the health consequences of gentrification in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the powerful community struggle against the Sequel 138 condo development with Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council board member Ivan Drury.  Part 2 examines mass incarceration and political imprisonment as an assault on people’s health and people’s aspirations for healthier, liberated world.  It includes part of talk by Angie Ipong, a former political prisoner who spent 6 years in jail in the Philippines for her work organizing with peasants and indigenous people, and an interview with Charlotte Kates of the SAMIDOUN Palestinian Prisoners Support Network about the health consequences of mass incarceration of Palestinians in Israeli occupation jails.

A plague of prisons |

A plague of prisons |

People’s Health Radio looks at the plague of prisons, featuring presentations recorded at forum put on by the End Prohibition Project.  Ernie Drucker, author of the new book A Plague of Prisons, presents his analysis of the development of the prison industrial complex in the US.  Lorna Bird, Laura Shaver and Aiyanas Ormond present an analysis of the mass incarceration agenda in Canada: criminalization of poverty, mandatory minimums, ever expanding police forces, and the largest boom in prison building since the 1930s.

Women’s Health and Women’s Liberation – IWD Special |

Women’s Health and Women’s Liberation – IWD Special |

To mark Internationl Women’s Day 2012, PHR looks at the links between working class women’s struggles for liberation and women’s health.  With the Alliance for People’s Health IWD statement read by Martha Roberts at the Vancouver IWD rally; a discussion between grassroots community health organizers Yuly Chan and Jannie Leung; and coverage of the IWD march in Gaza, Palestine.

No to Private Prisons, the Omnibus Crime Bill and Mass Incarceration! Homes Not Jails!

Tuesday, February 21, 12:30 PM
@ the new (under construction) privatized Surrey Remand Centre
adjacent Surrey City Hall at Highway 10 and 142nd Street, Surrey BC

The BC Liberals and private contractor Brookfield Int are building a expanded and privatized (P3) 216 cell remand centre in Surrey BC.  Christy Clark recently announced the construction of another 360 cell facility to be built on Native land in the Okanagan.  These prisons are part of a massive expansion of Canada’s prison system, with at least 9,000 spots currently under construction in every province and territory. The new prisons will be used to lock up an increasing number of criminalized poor people in Canada with people who use drugs, Native people, youth, migrants and refugees particularly targeted.

Stop the private prisons – Christy Clark’s housing plan for the poor.

Organized by Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users & Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society
Endorsed by: Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, Alliance for People’s Health, BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors – Abbotsford Chapter, BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors – Surrey Chapter, BC Association of People on Methadone, Eastside Illicit Drinkers for Education.

For information call Aiyanas at 604-683-6061 (VANDU) or 604-315-8766 or email



The Mass Incarceration Agenda is…

  • Federal Legislation including the “Omnibus Crime Bill” and “Truth in Sentencing Act” and changes to immigration law that will put more poor people, Native people, youth, people who use illicit drugs and immigrants and refugees in prison
  • A massive boom in prison construction at both Provincial and Federal levels, including a huge shift towards prison privatization
  • Police practices of ‘mining’ poor neighbourhoods for crime, criminalizing poor people’s survival activities, arresting people for being involved in drugs to which they are addicted, systematic surveillance and harassment of a small geographical area

Prison Building in Canada


Privatization and Profiteering

  • “Private-Public-Partnerships” to design/build and operate prisons in B.C. and Ontario
  • New Surrey Remand Centre contract awarded to Brookfield Int. (see and a new 350 cell facility being built on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band in the Okanagan
  • Toronto South Detention Centre is a $1 billion P3 for a 1,650 ‘bed’ facility designed built and operated by EllisDon
  • Prison profiteers will make a “per person, per day” profit from escalating incarceration of the poor as well as lucrative construction, maintenance and servicing contracts

How the Prisons and Jails are filled…

  • 21% of charges in Adult court are for “administration of justice” charges, such as “failure to appear”, “breach of an undertaking” and parole violations – these charges result in a high proportion of custodial (jail) sentences
  • Another 23% are for property crimes, a predictable outcome of poverty, inequality and addiction
  • 7% are for drug charges; however this understates the importance of the ‘drug war’ as a mechanism for mass incarceration of poor people and native people because many people end up in prison on an ‘administration of justice’ charge that originates from a drug charge

Who’s Inside…

  • More people: incarceration rates are rising with more than 250,000 people incarcerated at some point in 2008/9
  • Poor People: According to Conservative Senator Hugh Segal people living below the poverty line make up less than 10% of the general population but close to 100% of incarcerated people
  • Native People: are about 4% of the population but at least 20% of incarcerated people; 41% of Native people in prison are under 25 years old
  • People of Colour: 2.5% of people in Canada are Black/ African-Canadian but 9.12% of people in prison self-identify as Black
  • People who use drugs: 4 out of 5 incarcerated people are identified as having “serious substance abuse problems”


Drug Prohibition and Health |

Drug Prohibition and Health |


People’s Health Radio looks at the current prohibition of illicit drugs, its impact on health and alternative approaches to drugs and drug use.  Guests include UVic Professor Susan Boyd talking about the the history of drug prohibition in Canada and Dave Murray an ‘alumni’ of the North American Opiate Maintenance Initiative (NAOMI).

If you are in Vancouver check out this upcoming forum, ‘Beyond Prohibition,’ being put on by a coalition of groups in the Downtown Eastside.

Housing, Homelessness and Health |

Housing, Homelessness and Health |

Housing is a major determinant of both physical and mental health.  Yet in Vancouver and many other cities across Canada housing has become unaffordable even for people with ‘decent’ jobs.

This week People’s Health Radio looks at the health impacts of living in Vancouver’s shelter system and in ‘hotels’ in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with Roland Clarke and Ivan Drury, organizers from the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC).


Charity v Justice: Can the charity industry save us from capitalism? |

Charity v Justice: Can the charity industry save us from capitalism? |

At its best charity is about the practice of unconditional loving-kindness towards our fellow human beings.  This practice happens in lots of small ways in and between communities all over the world every day.  However, the charity industry has nothing to do with this ideal – its chief function is to legitimize a structurally unjust system.  This is true of the global ‘health and development’ charities that pretend that the damage of colonization and continuing national oppression can be rectified by vaccine and micro-loan programs.  It is equally true of the domestic charity industry which, particularly around Christmas time,  gets all warm and fuzzy about doling out to the needy.  These programs legitimize the unequal and unjust division of wealth and power in our society, both for the giver, who can be absolved of any sense of guilt for benefiting from the system, and for the receiver who is made to feel that the system is actually benevolent and they have a ‘fair chance’.  It keeps us from looking at the fundamental problems of an economic system that reproduces poverty and extreme inequality every single day as a core part of its basic logic.  In the words of the outstanding Canadian communist Norman Bethune: Charity should be abolished; it should be replaced with justice.