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Polarizing 'Vancouver Is Dying' documentary amasses 2 million views

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Aaron Gunn’s film is proving to be both popular and polarizing.

“I think whenever you make a documentary about contentious political issues, you’re not going to please everybody,” said Gunn, who splits his time living in Victoria and Vancouver.

Gunn’s hour-long "Vancouver is Dying" documentary is part of a series titled Politics Explained. The film explores issues including crime, homelessness and the overdose crisis.

“We seem to just keep doubling down on the exact policies so we wanted to just pull the curtain back,” said Gunn.

In the film, Gunn’s interview subjects include past and present members of law enforcement, victims of violent crime and recovering drug addicts.

The film is highly critical of government policies regarding the justice system and overdose crisis, particularly B.C.’s safe supply drug program. In multiple instances, Gunn’s film compares drug addicts using safe supply to that of an alcoholic being encouraged to drink and drive.

Gunn also links Vancouver’s crime rate to the city’s addiction and homelessness issue.

“There’s a lot of issues that, I think, could be brought forward that people would have a lot of compassion for, but this didn’t do it at all,” said Sarah Blyth, executive director of the Overdose Protection Society. “It just sort of created a hate storm towards people that need help.”

Globe and Mail journalist Andrea Woo tweeted: “There was not a single mention of what happened to the drug supply in North America in ‘Vancouver is Dying’. The intervention of safe supply is not a response to addiction, but to a drug supply that has fundamentally changed, killing 10x as many people.”

Gunn’s film also targeted the federal government’s move to de-criminalize the use of several hard drugs in B.C., which he believes will only further fuel the drug crisis.

“When it comes to things like heroin, fentanyl and crystal meth, I think there should be a societal stigma around those substances,” said Gunn. “Now we need to remove the stigma about seeking treatment, getting into recovery and seeking help with an addiction because that, I 100 percent agree with.”

Since being posted to YouTube in early October, Gunn’s film has surpassed two million views and has received several positive messages of feedback.

“I think it kind of reinforces the fact that it’s resonating with people,” said Gunn. “Obviously people are concerned with crime — I think most importantly there’s a lot of people, especially here in B.C., looking at the situation feel what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working and they’re open to other suggestions on how to tackle this problem.”

Gunn’s film also took aim at politicians including former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart, Justin Trudeau and Adrian Dix.

Vancouver mayor-elect Ken Sim scored a decisive victory last month, with major campaign promises including an increased police presence and improved public safety.

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