A Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) co-founder is expressing frustration that B.C.’s premier said the group is doing life-saving work, while also decrying their methods following a raid of the group’s base.
DULF is a group in Vancouver that aims to provide measures to prevent the increasing number of overdose deaths due to the toxic drug supply. The group hosts an overdose prevention site and does drug checking, but the harm reduction measure that has landed it in the spotlight recently is its compassion club.
The compassion club provides a safe supply of drugs to users in Vancouver, and last month Vancouver Police conducted a raid of DULF, seized drugs and arrested two people.
READ MORE FROM CBC: Vancouver police arrest 2 after raids on Drug User Liberation Front
B.C.’s Premier David Eby was asked about the situation during a news conference, where he said DULF had its lease by Vancouver Coastal Health cancelled following the raid.
“It’s unfortunate because they were providing essential life-saving work, but they were also breaking the law, which we will not tolerate,” Eby said Oct. 24.
Speaking to Mo Amir on This is VANCOLOUR, Garth Mullins, a co-founder of DULF, said he was frustrated by B.C. Premier David Eby’s response.
“It’s nice to have the premier acknowledge that we were doing life-saving work,” Mullins said.
“But it’s frustrating, because they’ve gone and arrested my friends for saving people’s lives. So that’s really outrageous. Also, this is something that the government should be doing. We’re doing his job: saving lives, protecting citizens, that’s something that governments are there for. That’s what we pay our taxes for.”
Mullins says the group has been criticized for not trying to do this legally.
“We didn’t set out to be outlaws. We sought permission from Health Canada to basically give us legal standing so that we could do this service legally. It would give us the ability to negotiate agreements with pharmaceutical companies to get the heroin or whatever from pharmaceutical manufacturers,” Mullins said.
“But Health Canada said, ‘Nope, no way.’ So we were sort of forced, we had no other choice.”
Providing a safe supply of drugs is something B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s Children and Youth advocate and many other experts have been pushing for as a way to reduce the number of deaths in the ongoing health emergency that has been in effect since April 2016.
From April 2016 through to the end of September 2023, at least 13,112 people have died due to the toxic supply of drugs in the province, according to the latest report from the B.C. coroner.
Mullins says breaking “unjust” laws is a method that has been used repeatedly to push a government into changing policy.
“If we obeyed every single rule all the time, we would never get anywhere in history. This is how come we have safe injection sites because people broke that law first and set up unpermitted safe injection sites and this is how we had needle exchanges. It used to be illegal when I started being an injection heroin user back when I was a teenager, it was illegal to give out syringes, and I had to share syringes with other people,” Mullins said.
“People break unjust laws to twist the arm of government to move history forward. And we’re not the only ones who’ve done it. People who are oppressed, exploited, otherwise screwed over, they have done it throughout history all over the world.”
Watch Garth Mullins full interview with Mo Amir on This is VANCOLOUR or the full episode below:
Garth Mullins interview: