Category Archives: Vancouver

Vancouver’s Drug Strategy

I have a hard time seeing this as a success:

Vancouver is into its second decade of dealing with an injected-drug crisis. The city has been concentrating more and more services in its Downtown Eastside. The result? Everything seems to be getting worse.

Homelessness numbers continue to rise. There were 2,138 homeless individuals in Vancouver in 2017  — compared to only 1,364 in 2005. Theft and violent crime in the Downtown Eastside have gone up since 2002. And as an overdose crisis sweeps Canada, Vancouver is its undisputed epicentre. Even with teams of naloxone-armed paramedics addressing a nightly rush of overdosed drug users, more than 100 people have died of overdoses in 2017 — with most of these occurring within the narrow borders of the Downtown Eastside.

And yet, all across the continent planners can be heard talking up Vancouver’s success on the addiction file.

They’re usually pointing to the success of Insite, which was established in 2003 as North America’s first safe injection site. …

And Insite’s supporters are right; safe-injection sites are good at what they do. But they really only do one thing: prevent people from dying.

It does not seem to reduce crime. There is slim evidence to show that it reduces overall addiction rates. And it certainly doesn’t lead to livable neighbourhoods filled with healthy people.

“After they opened Insite, it was like a warm hug from God … I mean people used to die here from overdose almost every day,” one Downtown Eastside drug user told the authors of a 2012 study.  

Safe injection sites are designed to do away with the most nightmarish aspects of injection drug use: Addicts sharing needles, using puddle water for injections, getting robbed after a fix and dying of overdoses. A frequently cited 2011 paper in The Lancet that studied Insite’s success found a 35 per cent decrease in the fatal overdose rate in the several blocks immediately surrounding the facility. And a 2009 review by Simon Fraser University criminologist Martin A. Andresen estimated that Insite saves three lives per year

But this is only one part of Vancouver’s drug story.

For one, the drugs consumed at Insite are “pre-obtained,” which is to say that they are still purchased by users on the black market. With about 700 injections occurring on site per day, it follows that there is still a vibrant market for drug suppliers — the very ones now cutting their product with lethal doses of fentanyl.

Insite’s own website says that “supervised injection facilities can help people quit drugs” — but the data proving as much is slim. The two major studies that Insite references cover a limited time period, and only document an increase in admissions to detoxification. To date, there is no definitive, long-term data showing that Vancouver’s injection drug users are successfully getting clean and kicking drugs because of safe injection.

Meanwhile, a 2006 British Medical Journal study looked at the years before and after Insite’s opening and found “no substantial decrease in the rate of stopping injected drug use.” While Insite will provide referrals to drug treatment, they also aim to be “low barrier.” Site staff do not want to alienate patients by counselling or pressuring them to seek treatment.


Top Vancouver Christian leaders reject Franklin Graham’s crusade

“Our concern is that the contentious and confrontational political and social rhetoric that Mr. Graham has used has the potential to overshadow the message of Jesus and incite hostility in our highly charged social climate,” said the letter, signed by more than 30 prominent evangelicals, Catholics and mainline Protestants.

More than 30! Consensus!


Vancouver mayor apologizes to U.K. tourists deemed ‘suspicious’

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has apologized to three British tourists who were the subject of an internal police bulletin for shooting video inside Pacific Centre Mall.

Robertson invited Mohammed Sharaz, his 14-year-old son Salahuddin Sharaz, and family friend Mohammed Kareem out to breakfast Sunday morning to apologize on behalf of the city.

“The last thing we want to happen is for them to think they weren’t treated well in Vancouver,” said Robertson.

…Sharaz says he is considering legal action against Vancity Buzz, the media website that first published the unblurred photos.

h/t Minicapt


Vancouver Rabbi Helped Raise $40 K to Sponsor Syrian Family

You know what you’re doing, Rabbi:

Relations between Israel and Syria have been tense since the mid-1990s — the nations have fought against each other in several wars, and have never had formal diplomatic relations.

Yet when Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Vancouver’s Temple Sholom asked his congregation for donations to sponsor a Syrian refugee family, he received $40,000 within a few days.

“This is our story as human beings, it’s particularly our story as Jews — we have been ourselves refugees throughout our time all the way back to the times of the Bible,” said Moskovitz, senior rabbi at the Oak Street synagogue. 

“It says 36 times in the Bible in the Old Testament to love the stranger, to love the refugee, because you were once strangers, you were once refugees yourself,” he told  B.C. Almanac host Gloria Macarenko.

“You don’t repeat something 36 times in the Bible unless it’s really, really important, and this is our obligation to see ourselves as them and to do what we can to save lives.”

The temple is working with Mosaic immigrant services organization, the Jewish Federation of Vancouver and the Anglican Archdiocese to sponsor a young family which has relations in Vancouver, but need sponsorship support to leave the refugee camp where they live.

Some of Vancouver’s other synagogues have also agreed to work with these organizations to sponsor one or two refugee families. Moskovitz said $40,000 is the estimated budget to support a family of four for a year.


Evening photos: Vancouver, BC

A photo taken from a high building looking north towards the North Shore mountains. Wallpaper site, no photographer info available. As with usual wallpapers, there are far too many returns on a reverse image search to attempt to locate the original.

Vancouver-view-from-Cypress-BowlThe view from Cypress Bowl, West Vancouver. Also wallpaper, no further info.

Lions-Gate-FogLions’s Gate Bridge seen from Stanley Park on foggy night. No photographer info available.

Lions-gate-from-North-VanFrom a realtor photo (asking $2.3 million): view from North Vancouver looking over Lion’s Gate Bridge and Burrard Inlet.

Vancouver-reflectionsVancouver skyline, by Magnus Larsson.


Vancouver gay film fest bans ‘overt nationalism’ in wake of Israeli flag controversy

Poster-gay-festivalThe offending poster

A gay film festival in Vancouver has banned “overt expressions of nationalism” after organizers came under fire over an advertisement featuring an Israeli flag.

The advertisement in last year’s guidebook for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, placed by the local gay Jewish group Yad b’Yad, featured a gay pride flag alongside an Israeli flag. That led to accusations of “pinkwashing,” the supposed tactic of using Israel’s support for gay rights to divert attention from its treatment of the Palestinians.

Following the ad’s publication, two directors withdrew their films from the festival and the festival donated the ad revenue to a third party, the Canadian Jewish News reported.

“We now have stronger policies that will enable us to make sure all our partnerships reflect our values and allow us to focus on bringing people together through film,” Shana Myara, the festival’s director of programming, told the newspaper.

Jonathan Lerner, spokesman for Yad b’Yad, told the CJN that the festival’s revised policies are a form of censorship…


Smuggler’s messages reveal how drugs easily pass through Vancouver’s port

How could the Port of Vancouver be misused by organized crime?

It’s not that hard, according to encrypted messages intercepted by police that detailed an exchange between one Vancouver man and the Ontario-based leader of a major international drug ring three years ago.

Mohamed Reza Amin Torabi told gang boss Nick Nero he had a contact person within the port who could control the movement of containers full of South American cocaine.

All he needed was the name of the company shipping the container to Canada and the actual container number, Amin Torabi explained.

“Hi bro. I am with my buddy. He is ready any time. All the ship come from south come to port here. I need transporter name and container number when U ready,” Amin Torabi, nicknamed ‘Big Guy,’ said in a May 2012 BlackBerry message.

A Vancouver Sun investigation has found at least 27 Hells Angels, associates, criminals and other gangsters work on the Port Metro Vancouver docks. And The Sun has obtained government and police documents that show an unaddressed organized crime problem on the waterfront dating back more than 20 years…

I seem to recall reading about this some time ago. As the article says, it is not a new problem.

h/t Marvin


Vancouver: Vacant homes held as commodities by wealthy foreigners

Vancouver plans to create a database of empty houses and condos to determine how much vacant properties contribute to the city’s affordability crisis.

Two of the major questions the city hopes to answer with this research is how much of an influence investors are having and whether housing is being treated as a commodity instead of as a place to live.

But one city councillor worries that in seeking the data, Vancouver may give more oxygen to xenophobic comments that have suggested Vancouver’s problems arise from foreign investments, particularly from China.

Coun. Kerry Jang, a third-generation Chinese-Canadian, said he was reminded of that possibility when someone emailed him at City Hall to report an empty house in his neighbourhood that probably owned by “a foreign investor”…