Supporters rally for arrested Vancouver drug activists

Dec 8, 2023

Earlier in November, over 400 safe supply supporters gathered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to protest the recent arrests of the founders of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF), Eris Nyx and Jeremy Kalicum. The arrests were made after Vancouver police raided DULF’s office and other addresses the week prior.

According to the group’s website, it provided 43 active participants up to 14 grams of illicit substances that had been tested for safety, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine every week, distributing a total of three kilograms of drugs “at cost.”

Vancouver city councillor Jean Swanson spoke at the rally referencing a recent report produced by a death review panel from the BC Coroners Service which specifically cited the need for programs like those offered by DULF.

“A bunch of medical health officers, a representative from Children and Youth, a rep from the First Nations Health Authority, and even a cop from Abbotsford recommends that the government do what Jeremy (Kalicum) and Eris (Nyx) face life in prison for doing,” said Swanson in her speech at the rally. “Every bit of ammo that any politician would need to justify the compassion model of safer supply is in this report. 225,000 British Columbians who use drugs risk death at any time if no action is taken.”

Furthermore, protesters also gathered in Victoria on the steps of the B.C. Legislature in support of DULF.

In his interview with CBC News, Inspector Phil Heard, the commanding officer of VPD’s Organized Crime Section, said that despite DULF trying to reduce harms caused by toxic drugs, “We have always warned that anyone who violates the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could face enforcement and criminal charge.”

A preliminary report released by DULF found no known overdoses caused by the substances provided by the group and a 50% reduction in hospitalizations among participants. Moreover, these preliminary conclusions have been evaluated by experts at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use. On November 1, an expert death review panel convened by B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe recommended that B.C. establish and expand non-prescription safe supply programs to reduce deaths, such as DULF’s compassion club model. 

“Sometimes when a law isn’t going to change, it’s going to be broken,” said Vancouver registered nurse Trevor Goodyear in his interview with CBC News. “And of course when people are frustrated with losing loved ones to the drug poisoning crisis, folks are going to act and break these laws.”