Statement on the arrests of the founders of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF)

Updated on November 2 at 10:55 am.

The HIV Legal Network condemns the October 25, 2023 arrests of the founders of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF). In the context of a nation-wide toxic drug crisis fueled by an unregulated drug market and bad drug policy, DULF has operated a compassion club and overdose prevention site to save lives by supplying safety-tested substances to people who use drugs. DULF’s work has support from leading researchers, physicians and health care providers, public health officials, and community groups — including those led by people who use drugs –

DULF has always been transparent about its actions, having made efforts to proceed using a federal exemption from Canada’s punitive drug laws through an application to Health Canada, which was denied in 2021. DULF then made the ethical choice to proceed without formal approval — a decision of which the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and other city and provincial officials were well aware. Evaluation of its work in partnership with researchers at the BC Centre on Substance Use shows DULF’s program is keeping people alive and in better health, with lower reliance on criminal activity.

Yet, the VPD chose to enforce these unjust laws after more than a year of DULF’s compassion club operating, despite acknowledging that their actions could “absolutely” result in those who rely on the compassion club’s services to consume more dangerous, untested substances.[1]

The “War on Drugs” is driving a deadly epidemic that takes 20 lives in Canada every day, six of those in BC alone. This vilification and ongoing criminalization of people who use and supply drugs must also be understood in the context of the enormous harms caused by the racial profiling, arrest, and incarceration of Black and Indigenous communities for buying and selling drugs, many of whom have little recourse against these unjust laws.

We support and applaud DULF’s founders and their vital work. In solidarity with DULF, we demand that Vancouver Police, the City of Vancouver, and the Province of BC:

  • Immediately cease criminalizing community-regulated safe supply in BC;
  • Restore DULF funding cut by Vancouver Coastal Health; and
  • Formalize a commitment to create a framework to uphold and protect community-regulated safe supply in BC.

[1] Larson, K (2023, Oct 26) Vancouver police arrest 2 after raids on Drug User Liberation Front, CTV Vancouver.