Vancouver drug advocacy group removes 'reprehensible' merchandise attacking city councilor
A Vancouver drug advocacy group has removed offensive merchandise from its website that attacked a city councilor, and issued an apology.
The group, Drug User Liberation Front (DULF), has previously been endorsed by Vancouver City Council for its proposal of a safe supply model for drug use. In a motion passed unanimously in October, councillors supported the application for a “compassion club model to supply safer drugs to people who use drugs, and who are over 18 years old.”
The application was put forward by DULF and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).
The group also worked with Coun. Jean Swanson in handing out free drugs on the Downtown Eastside last July.
DULF had recently updated its online store to sell merchandise attacking another councillor, Melissa De Genova. One item was a T-shirt with the words “Follow the money, Melissa 'Spaghetti' De Genova," and another was a pin that read “Melissa De Genova is a pumpkin-headed f***.”
On Twitter, De Genova posted, “I don’t expect DULF to agree with me on drug policy or the harms of the dark web, but what does my ethnicity have to do with it?”
Stewart was asked about the merchandise Wednesday, and said he had reached out to De Genova to offer his support.
In an interview with CTV News, De Genova said she found out about the merchandise on Tuesday through a text from a friend.
“I do believe that personal attacks take away from the important work that we’re doing at City Hall and more and more, these personal attacks happen not only to elected officials, but I do think it’s getting worse for women,” she said.
The group was also called out by Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
“It’s everything bad about politics. Personal attacks, especially against women are one of the things that’s hurting our democracy so they absolutely must stop this,” the mayor said. “This is reprehensible by the group, they know better and they should immediately stop this and apologize to the councillor for this. We all have to respect each other.”
The group told CTV News their spokesperson was on leave, but said in a message: “Ultimately, the merchandise was meant to be provocative and bring attention the baseless and harmful misinformation constantly expressed by (Melissa De Genova). Artistic expression and comical critique are important tools for civil disobedience.”
They said De Genova had spread “harmful misinformation” about the group and their safe supply model. De Genova said she had voiced concerns in a council meeting about the “dark web” and its connections to the drug market.
“I support safe supply and I would suggest that this group or any other that also support safe supply instead spend their time and efforts focusing on people who don’t support safe supply,” she said.
By late afternoon, the group had removed the material from its website and issued an apology.
“We would like to extend an apology to Councillor De Genova and anyone else hurt by our recent materials,” the group wrote on Facebook. “While we did intend for them to be provocative, they should not have been personalized. It was inappropriate and detracts from the real issue at hand, drug poisoning deaths.”
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