Vancouver police raid drug activists’ office over trafficking, two arrested
October 26, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Oct. 26, 2023, Vancouver, B.C. – A Vancouver “compassion club” that had been funded by the British Columbia government has been raided by police on allegations of drug trafficking.
Vancouver police said in a news release Thursday that multiple search warrants were served in its investigation into the operations of the Drug User Liberation Front, a group that had publicly admitted to trafficking controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines.
Police said two people were arrested.
Vancouver Coastal Health’s website says the Drug User Liberation Front Society received $200,000 of public funding in 2021-2022.
The raid against the activist group was addressed in the B.C. Legislature on Thursday, when B.C. United Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said the government’s drug decriminalization strategies were “reckless,” and the NDP had knowingly supported funding for a group buying illegal drugs.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the contract granted to DULF was not to buy drugs, and when the government found out it had been doing so, the contract was cancelled.
He said the contract was for “drug testing.”
“The contract was given to save lives,” said Farnworth.
Elenore Sturko, B.C. United Opposition critic for mental health and addiction, said during question period that there was no way the raid should come as a surprise to Premier David Eby.
“The premier has ignored, dismissed and hand-waved this issued, and now there’s a criminal investigation,” she said.
Sturko asked Eby if the government would undertake an audit of other groups that advocate for drug users in the province to see if they are also involved in criminal activity.
Eby wasn’t in the house to answer, but Farnworth replied that the Opposition knew the contract was only for drug testing, “and to somehow suggest that government authorized or wanted funds to go to buy illegal drugs is just straight nonsense and they know it.”
Eby said during a news conference earlier this week that government rules for all non-profit organizations doing overdose-prevention work require that they stay within the law.
“It’s very straightforward. That particular organization has had its contract cancelled, it’s had its lease cancelled by the health authority that provided that funding to them. And it’s unfortunate because they were providing essential life-saving work but they were also breaking the law, which we will not tolerate.”
The Drug User Liberation Front says on its website that its “fulfilment centre” allows drug users to receive up to 14 grams of cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine per week, with the substances tested for safety before sale “at cost.”
Police said they executed warrants at the group’s offices on East Hastings and Columbia Street, as well as two Vancouver homes.
The department said criminal charges against the two people who were arrested will be considered when the investigation is complete.
Inspector Phil Heard, commanding officer of the VPD Organized Crime Section, said in the news release that the department supports a “progressive drug policy” and harm-reduction strategies.
“While DULF’s actions were intended to reduce the harms caused by toxic drugs, we have always warned that anyone who violates the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could face enforcement and criminal charges,” he said.
“This group has knowingly operated illegally in the Downtown Eastside and we have now taken action to stop it.”
He said anyone who ignores the law should expect “enforcement action.”
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