Friday, October 05, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

Today, appearing in 24 hours is a piece written by freelance columnist Alex G Tsakumis. This piece hits home and with permission from Alex G, I have posted it in its entirety here on my blog.

By A. G. Tsakumis

“Double Shot”

It is an obscene and cruel slight of hand for any government, civic, provincial or federal, to suggest the greatest problem on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver is the narcotics trade.

Nor, for that matter, is it any less preposterous to say the zombie-state of Canada's most impoverished postal code is the result of refugees plying a trade that is more likely to land them in a concrete casket than a welcoming cell at the Main Street lock-up.

Instead, the obtuse grandeur of the issues facing the downtrodden on DTES is, in the main, a direct result of mental illness - and the self-medication solutions pushed by the political whip masters who don't give a damn about the living dead or their prayers.

We did this, did you know? You and I.

Because for every time any of our most cynical elected officials, at any level, leapt at an opportunity to proffer yet another uber-bogus “compassionate” drug-replacement therapy with narco-cocktails, equal in addictive draw to the street drugs they are purported to replace - we ate it - whole, every word. Lemming-like, we accepted, and some continue to do so, because we've fallen pray to the slick PR-campaign raptors.

CAST (Completely Attuned to Screwing this Town), is as much farce as any line delivered by John Cleese's Basil Fawlty. The self-proclaimed (yes, they named themselves) Centre for Excellence boasts studies that drug replacement works. What they don't tell you about are the countless doctors across this country (particularly addictionologists in Vancouver), who regard those studies as junk science. But why should only one side count in this debate?

Some years ago, former Mayor Philip Owen had the foresight to recognize that a program that would stem the tide of tyranny in the DTES was a must. The Four Pillars approach was then launched, enthralling us with tales of renewed lives and families saved. Insite was born as much out of our collective compassion as it was out of aching necessity.And while Insite has managed to stem the AIDS/HIV and Hep C rates, it's been a miserable failure in achieving the best of what was promised.

After all, the Conservative government's recent reprieve notwithstanding, there has never been a 'Four Pillars' approach in this City. Never, not once.

Senator Larry Campbell must wear some of the blame. As mayor, he blithely disregarded three of four pillars, propping up only harm reduction, forgetting prevention, treatment and enforcement. On his watch, there were no treatment centers, no extra cops and no campaign to tell of the dangers of drugs.We needed four pillars, not one.

You can almost instantly buy into a pill program that will give you thicker hair, bigger breasts and towering erections (and hopefully not all at once), but nary a single ad in schools, bars or at bus stops about the lack of laurels in getting high.

Current Mayor Sam Sullivan, to his credit, certainly sees the problem, but hasn't a clue how to treat it - being instead consumed with fringe replacement therapies that might only help a minority of addicts. He has said, strangely, that he sees addiction much like his disability: never to be cured but able to be managed.

Sadly, the dead can't offer their rebuttal.At the outset, all three of Messers Owen, Campbell and Sullivan should have petitioned the provincial government to reopen Riverview. Instead we're left with Minister Rich Coleman's policy dream of building thousands of units of luxury housing on that site.What's next Rich? Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears as drug counselors?

Meanwhile, apocalyptic prophecies about how the DTES will blow up without both the 'One Pillar' approach and CAST, will continue, so as to serve as nothing more than a common sense coma, whereby, passing off this hobbled initiative and accompanying junk science as silver bullet is easy, but not free. It's going to cost us. And maybe our kids. Do you care?

Alex G. Tsakumis is a freelance editorial writer and popular political commentator.