Pubdate: Wed, 14 May 2003
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Vancouver Courier
Author: James Tigchelaar,


To the editor:

Re: "Cop kudo," Kudos & Kvetches, April 27.

I was once told by a wise mentor that the best way to not look like an
ass is to avoid commenting on things about which you know nothing.
Whoever writes Kudos & Kvetches could benefit from this wisdom.

Your representation of Downtown Eastside drug-user groups (of which
there's only one-VANDU) as a "pro-slum, pro-drug lobby... who want the
area to remain a drug-infested ghetto" indicates that you know very
little about that organization or the essence of harm reduction.

I have worked as a registered nurse in the Downtown Eastside for over
10 years and lately-with pride-a fair chunk of that beside VANDU members.

They actively provide and advocate for services with unmistakable
objectives: to improve the lives of people with illnesses (like
addiction), and to reduce their exposure to harm (like disease and

It's really quite simple and elegant. If we improve the quality of
life for people in the community, we improve their health. By
improving the health of individuals in the community we, by extension,
build a healthier community. This is neither pro-slum, nor pro-drug.

While I'm not personally at the stage of wanting to tear a strip off
Mayor Campbell, I do share VANDU's concerns around the current single
pillar approach to the implementation of the Four Pillars plan. If we
had effective alcohol and drug services in place for addicts, then the
police being out in greater force could result in movement of addicts
into those services and-one would hope-on to something healthier.

Implementing the enforcement pillar alone only serves to shove people
who are already sick around. This accomplishes little in the area of
building a healthier community or drug policy reform and will result
in sicker people and a more damaged community.

I would encourage the Courier to try to avoid printing silly comments
like those in your K&K column. They're somewhat reminiscent of the
thankfully defunct Community Alliance's tactics.

If you're going to comment on the motivation and objectives of any
organization, spend some time with them-ask them. I know the folks at
VANDU. They're genuine and caring and would be happy to fill you in on
who they are and what they're trying to accomplish.

James Tigchelaar,

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