A group advocating for a safe supply of drugs in Vancouver has issued an apology for selling merchandise on its website that describes a city councillor with profane language.
The Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) distributes clean drugs at events aimed at demonstrating the life-saving potential of legalizing drugs and uses fundraisers and merchandise to fund their safe supply.
But the group's most recent fundraising effort—a pin and a t-shirt featuring Councillor Melissa De Genova's name with inflammatory comments—was met with predominantly fierce opposition from the city's elected officials.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart told reporters in his media availability Wednesday (Jan. 19) that the merchandise is “everything bad about politics" and that "personal attacks, especially against women, are hurting our democracy," adding that selling the items is "reprehensible."
Other city councillors added to the discussion on Twitter, voicing their condemnation. Among them was De Genova, who wouldn't provide a comment to Vancouver Is Awesome but stated in a tweet that her "heritage and ethnicity isn’t relevant," and that these types of tactics discourage women from running for elected offices.
COPE councillor Jean Swanson told V.IA. that she didn't support the messaging of the merchandise but that "the main thing that we should be outraged about is that over six people a day are dying. That's the main thing we should focus on."
While many locals praised the group's efforts, DULF issued an apology on Twitter following the backlash.
"We would like to extend an apology to Councillor De Genova and anyone else hurt by our recent materials. While we did intend for them to be provocative, they should not have been personalized," reads the tweet.
"It was inappropriate and detracts from the real issue at hand, drug poisoning deaths."
DULF co-founder Jeremy Kalicum also provided the following statement to V.I.A.
"We should all focus on the real issue at hand, that overdose deaths are continuing to rise. While there has been lots of talk, there has been no tangible action taken to stem the devastating tide of deaths.
"Personally targeting politicians is inappropriate and we should stick to tearing apart their severely flawed and antiquated views on substances and substance use."
Over 8,300 people have died as a result of a toxic drug supply since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.
On average, more than six people a day die from drug overdoses in B.C.
The latest BC Coroners Service report can be read online.
With a file from Jeremy Hainsworth.