Publications5 June 2023
Talking back to the city: A manual for winning — and resisting — local drug policy
Talking Back to the City: A manual for winning – and resisting – local drug policy is a drug policy report authored by Pivot Legal Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU). It calls on local governments to cease practices that jeopardize drug users’ lives. The 60-page report combines legal information with a framework for grassroots organizing against the drug war. Drawing on decades of Pivot and VANDU’s collective experience, the report aims to “educate local governments about the tools they have (or don’t have) [and] build strength and solidarity with our allies around Turtle Island.” Though all levels of government have a responsibility to address the drug toxicity crisis, Talking Back takes aim at the deadly actions and inactions of local governments, recognizing that “it is here on the streets where drug users die from policy at the hands of police, bylaw enforcement officers, city councils, and the public.” The routine hostility of local governments toward overdose prevention services is a prime example of anti-drug user policy. “In addition to undercutting BC’s decriminalization policy, cities are routinely responsible for impediments to and closure of overdose prevention services (OPS) across the Province, despite there being a standing Ministerial Order requiring OPS “wherever there is need.” Drug user groups (which provide cutting edge harm reduction services and drug policy advocacy) are constantly under threat too, with many having to close their doors due to local governments’ use of zoning restrictions, business licence denials, and nuisance property designations. Talking Back calls for an end to these practices from the ground up.” Drug user groups... are constantly under threat too, with many having to close their doors due to local governments’ use of zoning restrictions, business licence denials, and nuisance property designations. ~Caitlin Shane, Staff Lawyer – Pivot Legal Society In the face of government action and inaction, VANDU has fought against deadly drug policies for more than two decades. The Report highlights lessons learned and best practices VANDU has developed over the decades. “We want to show other [drug user] groups how to get started. If VANDU had been around more than 25 years ago, maybe my daughter would have been around today, because she would have had clean needles. I’d like to let the world know that just because we’re drug users we’re not failures, we can do whatever we say we’re going to do, we can teach people and the young generation how to do it right and not kill themselves. To be able to teach the new generation the right ways without lying to them and the public, that’s the main thing. Tell the truth.” To be able to teach the new generation the right ways without lying to them and the public, that’s the main thing. Tell the truth. ~Lorna Bird, VANDU Board Member “We want this report to act as a manual. There’s so many things that are so troublesome to us, it could be hundreds of pages long; it could be a volume. We want to save communities the trouble of going through the brutality that VANDU and other groups have had to go through. We need to share our knowledge and not be greedy. We want to elevate people. Give them some encouragement.” We need to share our knowledge and not be greedy. We want to elevate people. Give them some encouragement. ~Elli Taylor, VANDU Member The Report reflects the philosophy of ‘nothing about us, without us’. Ultimately, the most profound need to establish such a network [of people who use drugs] arises from the fact that no group of oppressed people ever attained liberation without the involvement of those directly affected by this oppression. ~VANDU manifesto The Report also contains a poster insert, “VANDU’s Golden Rules,” which shares top tips and tricks for: direct action and grassroots organizing; working with government; and working with researchers.