Effective Drug Strategies

Earlier this year we conducted a community survey to ask our neighbours what they would be interested in hearing more information about regarding issues of housing and homelessness. 19% of respondents were interested in better understanding and/or advocating for effective drug strategies. In particular, many survey participants expressed a lack of understanding of substance use and drug strategies and others also questioned the productivity of existing strategies. One survey respondent asked – “What would be the beneficial effects of decriminalizing drugs?”

Stigma of drug use

Stigma can be defined as disapproval for a certain behaviours or group of people. This can look like stereotyping and blaming individuals for systemic failures.

The Canadian Drugs Policy Coalition breakdowns the history of drugs policy in Canada HERE, with Vancouver being pinpointed as the birthplace of Canadian drugs prohibition. This timeline demonstrates how the banning of substance use has strong links with racism and stigma towards the Vancouver Asian communities and Indigenous communities. In fact, much of Canadian drug policy originates in racism. The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition draws the clear link between drug policy in Canada and systemic racism towards Black folks in this informative piece by Robyn Maynard author of ‘Policing Black Lives’. Harm Reduction Toronto also demonstrates how our colonial history has worked to embed structural racism in the way that we legislate substance use HERE.

Oftentimes the media can contribute towards this warped view of substance use and addiction. This can happen through coded language, moralistic assumptions, and sensationalist headlines. Check out this informative article from the Columbia Journal Review titled what the media gets wrong about opioid use.

PIVOT legal society has created a short research based video that illustrates the ways in which police intervention in substance use can often result in negative outcomes. Dr. Bonnie Henry has been calling for a person centred approach to substance use for many years, including in this short video for Rain City HERE.

A person centred approach is sometimes referred to as ‘client centred care’, and is widely considered to be best practice in healthcare. This involves treating people with dignity and respect, understanding that each person is experiencing unique circumstances, and empowering people to make safe decisions regarding their own care.

Harm Reduction

A Harm Reduction approach realistically assumes that abstinence from substance use is not achievable for everyone. Harm reduction is non-judgemental approach to supporting folks who use substances to do so in a safe way. When fully implemented this has benefits for both individuals and the wider society. Read about the City of Vancouver’s four pillar drug strategy HERE.

Harm Reduction includes support in learning safe substance consumption practices to prevent accidental harm, and access to clean injecting supplies to prevent spread of infectious diseases. One of the simplest ways to prevent accidental harm is to never use substances alone. This is why supervised consumption sites are important. Find out more about Vancouver’s site locations HERE.

Naloxone is a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl and morphine. It is available in BC without a prescription and often given as an injection into a muscle. Towards the Heart is an organisation that facilitates training and distribution of this life saving medication. Anyone can be trained in using naloxone and receive a free naloxone kit. Most pharmacies distribute free naloxone and train people in using it. Find out more HERE on the Shoppers website.

The Instagram account Harm Reduction Saves Lives is operated by folks with lived experience, with the aim to share life saving and educational information. This account will also often include content that illustrates the harm that can be caused by stigma and judgement of those that are using substances, all of which prevents substance users from accessing harm reduction support.


The Provincial Government has applied to the Federal Government to allow for the decriminalization of small amounts of illegal substances for personal use across British Columbia. This is strongly supported by many healthcare professionals, including Dr. Bonnie Henry. Read more HERE.

The Vancouver Area Drug Users Network (VANDU) are a research and advocacy group led by those with lived experience of substance use. VANDU are doing excellent work in interrogating drug policies and advocating for change. Their work includes the award-winning Crackdown podcast, which is a fantastic piece of journalism that can be listened to via the VANDU website HERE or via Spotify HERE.

Episode 5 of this podcast The Portugal Paradox focuses on drug policy in Lisbon, where possession of small amounts of drug for personal use has been decriminalized since 2001. Crackdown podcast host Garth Mullins visit Lisbon and speaks with health professionals and substance users to get a sense of how these drug policies play out on a day to day basis.

Positive benefits that have come from the decriminalization of substances for personal use in Portugal have included sharp falls in HIV infections, drug-related deaths & overdoses, and prison populations.

The drug policy in Portugal includes extensive public funding for treatment. Read more about drug policy in Portugal HERE.

In November 2020 the Sate of Oregon voted to become the first State in America to decriminalize possession of all drugs for personal use, along with greatly expanding access to evidence-informed drug treatment, peer support, housing, and harm reduction services, and all without raising taxes. Services will be funded through excess marijuana tax revenue (over $45 million) and savings from no longer arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting people for drug possession. Based on current projections, the excess marijuana tax revenue alone should result in over $100 million in funding for services in the first year and up to $129 million by 2027.

According to a report by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission released by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, passage of this measure will result in a 95% decrease in racial disparities in drug arrests. The actual impact on disparities could be even more dramatic, the report notes, stating “other disparities can exist at different stages of the criminal justice process, including inequities in police stops, jail bookings, bail, pretrial detention, prosecutorial decisions, and others.” Read more HERE.

Safe Substance Supply

In British Columbia we are experiencing an opioid overdose epidemic from a poisoned drug supply. Read more HERE. In the first half of 2021 there were over a thousand deaths in British Columbia due overdoses on a poisoned drug supply. This is hugely traumatic for those who use drugs, and their loved ones. This also creates a constant circle of vicarious trauma for the service providers and healthcare workers who are responding to the ever-increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths. Access to a safe supply of substances for those who are substance dependant will save lives and work to prevent further traumatizing of our communities. The Provincial Government has plans to phase in a new prescribed safer supply policy. Read more HERE.

Alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs (benzodiazepines), cannabis, and even caffeine are all legal stimulating substances. Bars, pubs, and nightclubs are living examples of safe consumption sites for alcohol. Despite this, many people still disapprove of the notion of safe consumption sites for illicit substances, or a safe supply of substances for those who are dependant on a poisoned drug supply and at risk of overdose. It can be helpful to reflect on what exactly a substance is, how society is happy to operate harm reduction models for some substances but not others, and why exactly some substances are considered more socially acceptable than others. It is important to acknowledge that many members of our community are using substances, both legal and illegal, and it is usually unwise to make an assumption on what a ‘typical’ substance user might look like.

Government Drug Strategy

13% of survey respondents were directly interested in the role of government in addressing these issues.  At a National level, the Canadian government has a Canadian Drug Substance Strategy and at a Provincial level these are the services offered in British Columbia.

Earlier this year during the Federal Election we interviewed the West End candidates. Questions included plans to address the current opioid crisis. Their responses can be viewed on our website HERE.

Support Groups and Helplines  

BRAVE COOP is a harm reduction organization that is developing and distributing tools and apps that can help to prevent and detect overdoses.

Crisis Line Association of BC

Health Link BC

Family and Caregiver Resources

Homelessness, Stigma, and Solutions

Earlier this year we conducted a survey to find out what our community wanted to hear more about when it comes to issues regarding housing and homelessness. 14% of respondents highlighted a lack of understanding around housing opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. Concerns on the pervasiveness of homelessness and a lack of understanding of substance use and mental health issues was voiced by 13% respondents. (Read our substance use blog post HERE) Most respondents were interested in why the issue of homelessness has not yet been solved, especially considering years of investment and agency collaboration on this issue. One respondent asked –

“Why as a democratic community do we continue to accept our fellow citizens to live in conditions that we would not choose to live in?”


Stigma can be defined as disapproval of certain behaviours or groups of people. This usually manifests as stereotyping and blaming individuals for systemic failures.

Stigmatizing unhoused folks is not a new phenomenon. The “Elizabethean Poor Laws” categorized those in poverty into ‘deserving poor’ and ‘undeserving poor’. The idea behind these laws was to penalize those who were deemed to be responsible for their own poverty through prison, fines, and public shaming. Today’s society still tends towards some of these measures due to a long engrained social stigma. For unhoused people this social stigma results in increased isolation and vulnerability and creates barriers to exiting homelessness.

The engrained stigma and misconceptions that surround poverty and homelessness actively prevent us from implementing successful solutions. Pivot Legal Society conducted research into the prevalence of stigma towards unhoused people in BC and found that stigma was present across our communities and our institutions (eg. healthcare, policing, government). The effects of this engrained social stigma trapped unhoused people in a cycle of harm. Read more HERE to get a sense of how this stigma manifests in everyday life and contributes to the suffering of our unhoused neighbours. The full report is at the top of the page, and you can scroll down for bite size videos. 

This excellent selection of videos from Rain City Housing identifies a number of common homelessness myths, and replaces them with factual information. It features Dr. Bonnie Henry speaking about the myths regarding homelessness and addiction.

Occasionally you may hear people using the word ‘homeless’ as a catch-all term for poverty, substance use, and poor mental health. A growing body of research shows that homelessness is not a homogenous experience. The reality is that while some life experiences may cause some people to become more vulnerable to housing insecurity, not all people who experience homelessness are facing the same issues.

Unhoused people have only one definite thing in common with one another – they don’t have access to safe, suitable, stable, affordable housing.

Success stories in tackling homelessness

Housing First is an approach to ending homelessness that prioritizes placing the person who is unhoused straight into a safe home where they live independently in the community. Once housed the person has the option to engage with a multidisciplinary team to create a support plan that suits their specific needs. Traditional models require unhoused people to live in temporary accommodation and stop using substances or receive psychiatric treatment before being eligible for housing support services, but Housing First professionals will work with the person in their own home to address their needs without unnecessary eligibility criteria . The Housing First model hinges on the concept of housing as a basic human right where there are no prerequisites to being housed.

At Home – Chez Soi was a national study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada that studied the effectiveness of Housing First in various Canadian cities, focusing on different populations in each city between 2009 to 2013. The study was considered to be a huge success. You can look at the report on the Vancouver study here which focused on those who were experiencing homelessness while also using substances. It includes an economic analysis that proves the cost effectiveness of the Housing First approach. National Housing Strategy takes this success into account and Housing First falls under the Reaching Home – Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.

Finland is currently working towards a national goal to end homelessness across the country by 2027. Finland are achieving this through their commitment to the view of housing as a basic human right, and a resolution towards consistent provision of affordable housing. 25 per cent of all housing in Finland is affordable housing, across all areas and neighbourhoods. Finland are on track to attain their goal through a commitment to strong housing policies and the implementation of a Housing First approach. Check out this CBC news article to learn more. Another Nordic country that has had success in tackling homelessness is Norway. Again, this has been achieved through continued commitment to national strategies that shift focus from temporary homelessness accommodation to long term independent housing. Read more here.

Housing First is a highly regarded evidence based approach that is used around the world, and when fully implemented the approach achieves a high success rate. This approach shows us that the best way to tackle homelessness is to look at it as a systemic housing problem. The main stumbling block faced by professionals when implementing Housing First is a lack of affordable housing across all neighbourhoods to place people in. Read more about affordable housing in Vancouver HERE.

13% of survey respondents were interested in the role and involvement of government in addressing homelessness and substance use. Earlier this year we asked Federal Election candidates to respond to a series of questions that raised issues important to our community. This included tackling homelessness and housing affordability, and can be read HERE

Affordable Housing

Most Vancouver residents are well aware of the ongoing housing crisis and lack of affordable housing options, and many wonder why the municipal government hasn’t been able to successfully address this issue.

Concern about access to affordable housing and questions about government involvement were reflected in the responses to two community surveys conducted by staff at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

In a survey carried out in the lead up to the October 2020 Provincial Election, 88% of survey respondents expressed worry about housing with 44% placing it as their number one concern. Many stated that access to affordable housing was out of reach for those with lower paid jobs and asked for “housing co-ops accessible to any range of salaries” and mentioned fears of “rent increases” and “chronic lack of housing”. 64% of survey respondents expressed concerns around a visible increase of homelessness in the West End and a need for supports.

Earlier this year we conducted a second survey to ascertain what knowledge gaps exist in our community around issues regarding housing and homelessness. 13% of survey respondents were directly interested in the role of the Vancouver municipal government in addressing these issues, and many more respondents questioned the responsibilities of the municipal government in tackling this issue.

West End housing and income statistics

The West End’s poverty rate is higher than the citywide average across all ages, with an especially high rate among children and young adults (City of Vancouver, 2020, pg. 48). Nearly half of West End households are making less than $50,000 per year (2020, pg. 55). These data imply that nearly half of all households in the West End are not meeting Vancouver’s 2019 Market Basket Measure (MBM) threshold (Statistics Canada, 2021). The median household income of the West End is $51,000, the second lowest in the city (City of Vancouver, 2020, pg. 46). The neighbourhood has the smallest average household size of any local area in the city, with 1.5 people in the average private household in 2016 (2020, pg. 21). Private households make up 99% of the housing market in the West End (2020, pg. 5). This data coincides with an extreme rise in housing rates, with average rent prices in Vancouver increasing by >25% above inflation over the past 10 years (City of Vancouver, 2020, pg. 56). 45% of the West End are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, a higher rate than for households in the city overall (2020, pg. 56). In addition, 80% of West End residents (2020, pg. 17) and 62% of West End seniors (2020, pg. 62) rent their homes. These data signify a strain on low-income households’ ability to afford necessary items and pressure on West End residents to rely more on affordable housing.

Sources: West End Social Indicators Profile and Statistics Canada

So who makes the decisions on affordable housing?

The main levels of Canadian government include Federal (Canada), Provincial (BC), and Municipal (Vancouver). Each level of government has a specific role that covers a set of responsibilities and decision making power. Generally speaking, on a national level the Government of Canada delegates responsibilities and power to the provinces. There is also a constitutionally defined division of powers – federal government generally speaking govern national concerns (defence, public debt, citizenship, etc.) and the provinces govern more place-based concerns (healthcare, education, prisons, natural resources, etc.) The province then delegates a subset of responsibilities and power to cities or municipalities.

However, according to the Local Government Act, cities are “creatures of the province”. Cities like Vancouver have jurisdiction over some policy decisions, such as transportation and parks & recreation, however this is subjected to the jurisdiction and funding provided by the province. As a city and a “creature of the province” Vancouver municipal government does not have extensive powers to radically fund and implement affordable housing projects, initiatives, and policies.

At a provincial level, the BC government has a significant amount of housing jurisdiction when it comes to building new housing, rent regulation, and the protection of tenants rights. Sources: BC Poverty Reduction Strategy and Wellesy Institute (2007)The 1867 constitution assigned “property and civil rights in the province” to provincial jurisdiction, which includes ownership and use of land. It is this power that gives provinces the responsibility for rent regulation and tenant protection matters.”

In the case of affordable housing, this means that policies and projects related to housing are under the jurisdiction or authority of the federal government. This can be seen through Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

The federal government will typically delegate funding and authority to the provincial governments to help provinces implement affordable housing initiatives. For example, BC Housing is generally responsible for providing affordable housing within British Columbia. However, provincial governments such as British Columbia are reliant on the Canadian federal government for sufficient funding to deliver on the housing policies and initiatives that they develop.

Then how can the City address affordable housing?

Vancouver and cities alike still have a number of tools they can use to further affordable housing initiatives. This includes regulating affordable housing by using zoning bylaws and community plans. Municipal governments can also incentivize development projects that provide affordable housing. They can also acquire land that a housing provider, such as BC Housing, can use towards developing affordable housing. Cities also govern some housing related taxes, such as the Empty Homes Tax.

Cities can also raise awareness and educate community members on the need for affordable housing which can help make development and rezoning a smoother process, along with advocating for more affordable housing to provincial and federal levels of government.

Affordable housing is such a big issue across Vancouver and housing insecurity is impacting many of our West End neighbours. Housing insecurity is a complex issue that is impacted by all levels of government. When is comes to affordable housing it is important to be engaging not just in municipal politics, but in provincial and national too. During the most recent Federal Election we reached out to the candidates in our riding to find out where their parties stand on a variety of issues, including the issue of housing affordability. Check out their answers HERE.

John Spence Mural at Gordon Neighbourhood House

John Spence was born in North Vancouver, and is a member of the Squamish Nation. He is from the Killer Whale clan, and is a grandson of the late Chief Simon Baker (Khot-la-cha). John is a talented wood carver and painter, and this summer he worked with several local youth to paint a mural on Gordon Neighbourhood House depicting three important symbols. 


The Thunderbird is a legendary and well-respected creature in Squamish peoples’ history and culture. Many Coast Salish communities honour the Thunderbird, and have similar stories and teachings. According to Squamish legend, the Thunderbird nested on Mount Garibaldi and was so massive that it fed on killer whales. When the Thunderbird flapped its powerful wings it brought thunder, and by moving its tentacle-like ears it generated lightning. The Thunderbird is considered a supernatural being of power and strength, and a protector of people.

The Beaver

Beavers are large rodents that can be found in freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. They use their chisel-like teeth to chew through trees to build dams and lodges using logs, branches, rocks, and mud. These dams create new ecosystems such as wetlands which are used by many other species. For these reasons, the beaver is an important symbol for Squamish peoples  because it builds communities and sustains ecosystems. 


The salmon is very significant to Squamish and Coast Salish peoples. Not only is the fish an important source of food, it also feeds the ecosystem. Squamish legends tell that at one time there were no salmon here, and the Squamish people needed to travel to the sea and ask the Salmon people to send some of their people to our local waters. The salmon represents abundance, nutrition, and a healthy community and healthy environment. 

Learn more about John’s work at Spiritual Creations – By John Spence. For anyone wondering, John does commissions!

Orange Shirt Day 2021

Orange Shirt Day is an annual national event that is held on September 30th. It is a day to honour Residential School survivors and their families, and to remember those who did not survive. Orange Shirt Day started as a movement to bring forward the truth about Canada’s Residential School system. This year is the first year that Canada acknowledged this date as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Keep reading for more background on Orange Shirt Day, and information on how we acknowledged this important date at Gordon Neighbourhood House. We also shared further resources earlier this year, which can be found HERE.

Orange Shirt Day Background

Residential Schools were in existence from 1831 until 1996. They were government funded, and church run “schools”, established to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian society. The goal of these schools was to break the children’s ties to their language, traditions and families. Many children experienced the worst neglect and abuse imaginable at the hands of their teachers and people responsible for running the schools. Several thousand children died while under the care of the government. (resource: www.cedarhilllonghouse.ca)

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake in the spring of 2013. It grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s account of losing her shiny new orange shirt on her first day of school at the Mission, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.  September 30 was chosen because children are back in school and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the year. Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and community agencies to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.

“I want to release what is inside of me. All that fear. All that anger. All that pain. I want all of Canada to know why we are the way we are today.” – EDDY CHARLIE

Eddy Charlie, Kristin Spray & Bear Horne

Xe Xe Smun’eem – Victoria Orange Shirt Day is an annual event in the city of Victoria to honor and recognize Residential School survivors. The event is held each September 30th in Downtown Victoria.

Victoria Orange Shirt Day was initiated in 2015 by Residential School survivor Eddy Charlie and his friend Kristin Spray while attending the Indigenous Studies program at Camuson College. Today, the event is attended by thousands of people from across the city of Victoria seeking to recognize the sacrifices of residential school survivors.

Eddy and Kristin have made enormous contributions to the Orange Shirt Day movement. Together, they have volunteered tens of thousands of hours to raise awareness about residential schools, meeting with community groups, public officials, schools and anyone else interested in honouring survivors. They routinely provide workshops for neighbourhood house staff. Eddy and Kristin also order and distribute orange shirts to members of the community looking to participate in Orange Shirt Day.

The design was created by Tsawout Artist Bear Horne. Bear’s design includes a bear to help us follow the right path, an eagle to help us have a vision of a bright future, a hummingbird to keep our mind, body and spirit healthy, and a flower to feed the connection of all these elements.

This year The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC bought and distributed 365 Xe Xe Smun’eem Orange Shirts and 54 copies of Phyllis Webstad‘s books in the lead up to September 30th. We chose to distribute Xe Xe Smun’eem Orange Shirts based on a decades-long relationship between Gordon House and Eddy Charlie. We are proud of our friendship and work together with Eddy and Kristin, and are honoured to distribute these shirts to members of our community.

100% of all proceeds raised went to Victoria Orange Shirt Day. Thank you to all who wore an Orange Shirt on September 30th, and all year round. 

Story Time – with Jaylene Tyme

On the evening of Tuesday 28th September the legendary Jaylene Tyme hosted an intimate and intersectional story time for our whole community.

Jaylene Tyme is a proud Indigenous Two Spirit Trans human from Zagime Anishinabek, Kawacatoose and Metis Nation Saskatchewan – Treaty 4. As a celebrated make up artist, preformer and LGBTQ2S+ ambassador, she believes that it is important to celebrate the power of community by contributing to the energy of our world with passion and positivity. Together for each other, we have the opportunity to inspire and educate. Our identities, beautifully diverse and wonderfully unique.

Jaylene shared stories about diversity and Indigenous visibility. Jaylene read aloud two stories for the attendees – “Phyllis’s Orange Shirt” by Phyllis Webstad and “Juliàn Is A Mermaid” by Jessica Love.

This was a magical evening for everyone in attendance, with one child giving the ultimate high praise of I am adding Jaylene to my adult friends list’.

Resources for Relearning & Action

Sensory Friendly Pride

Vancouver’s West End is well-known for its inclusive atmosphere anytime of the year, but especially during the summer months when the 2SLGBTQAI+ (Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Asexual/Aromantic, Intersex, and Questioning) community celebrates Pride.

While the annual Pride Parade and street parties are favorite events of the year for many people, the festivities can be overwhelming for neighbours who identify as autistic. This is problematic as neurodiverse folks are twice as likely to identify as 2SLGBTQAI+ than their neurotypical peers, yet it can be difficult to find comfortable spaces to connect and celebrate.

Making space for marginalized communities is what Pride has always been about. This year Gordon Neighbouhood House partnered with Anna Jackson to host a Sensory-Friendly Pride event. We spoke to Anna about the importance of Pride events for queer autistic and neurdiverse folks.

Q. Let’s talk about language. The recent trend has been ‘person first’ language, like “people with disabilities” or “people with autism”. The community has been challenging that recently, saying ‘autistic people’ or ‘disabled people’ directly. Why is that?

Anna Jackson: Great question. Indeed, in the autistic community the vast majority of people use identity-first language, as in “I am autistic”. However, there are people who prefer person-first language. So, even though using identity first language is a fairly safe bet among autistic people, it is worth checking with each person individually. As for why identity-first language is on the rise: 1) we don’t think of autism as a disease or a disorder, it is just a different way of being in the world; and 2) like for example being gay or Canadian, being autistic is an identity which can’t be separated from our experiences.

Q. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about autism. Much of it stems from a pretty problematic history involving Nazis, conversion therapy, and more. What can you tell us about the history of assimilating autistic people? 

Anna Jackson: Oh, I can talk about all of those things for hours! But, in a nutshell, Asperger (the person Asperger’s syndrome was named after) was a Nazi collaborator who sent children to be murdered. For that reason, a lot of us autistics who previously identified as Aspies, no longer do so. Moreover, the most widely used therapy for autistic people, called Applied Behavioural Analysis or ABA was created by Ivar Lovaas at UCLA. At the same time as Lovaas was developing ABA he was also working with researchers working on the “Feminine Boy Project”, which developed gay and trans-conversion therapy. Lovaas, did not think we autistics are even really people. He once said in an interview:

“You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense — they have hair, a nose and a mouth — but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person.”

So, the autism industry has very disturbing roots that unfortunately still define our everyday life as autistic people today. We don’t need to be cured or treated, what we need is to be accepted. If any of the readers want to read more about this topic, I recommend Jake Pyne’s (2020) paper “Building a Person: Legal and Clinical Personhood for Autistic and Trans Children in Ontario.”

Q. What’s stimming? 

Anna Jackson: Stimming is repetitive action or movements, and autistics often stim. This may relieve or alleviate anxiety or other deal with discomfort in general, and autistics often report getting some comfort from stimming. Suppressing stimming can thus become very uncomfortable, and unnecessarily so. Stimming is often one of the behaviors that “therapy” attempts to “control” (as if it needs to be controlled). Discouraging stimming is harmful, as this is our way of self-regulation. Examples of stimming include: hand flapping, hair twirling, rocking, or sniffing a comforting smell.

Q. One concept we’ve been hearing about lately from the autistic community is ‘masking’ – what is masking?

Anna Jackson: Autistic masking occurs when an autistic person attempts to present so as to seem to be as neurotypical as possible to others. Certain behaviors that one might normally engage in for comfort, but which one has been told are off-putting to others, such as stimming, might be suppressed, while other behaviors that one might not normally engage in, such as full eye contact with others while talking, is consciously employed. It is, indeed, like putting on a mask so that one’s true self is hidden. Many autistics have expressed a perceived need to mask due to years of having been (loudly and repeatedly) told such things as “Look at me when you talk to me!” 

Masking at some stage becomes an automatic social tool to make interacting with neurotypicals less stressful, but the party who is less stressed as a result of masking is the neurotypical person, not the autistic. For the autistic, masking can be utterly exhausting: suppressing stimming and making prolonged eye-contact can both be quite distressing to an autistic person. Putting on this mask while at the same time trying to navigate complex human relationships and interactions, when extended over long periods, can lead to major mental health issues. Continuous masking across years has been known to lead to more dire periods complete collapse or, as we call it – burnout.

Autistics do not mask in order to appear to be someone they are not for their own benefit: they do so because they have been conditioned by society and their upbringing to consider the comfort of others before their own identity and well-being. We are just as human as everyone else and like everyone else we want companionship and a sense of belonging and masking is one means of meeting these needs: if people are more comfortable with eye contact or “pleasant” small talk — many autistics will learn how to play this role in short bursts, even with the associated psychic discord this can trigger.

Q. We recently worked together to host a sensory-friendly Pride. Why are sensory-friendly Pride events so important for neurodivergent folks?  

Anna Jackson: There are a lot of queer autistics out there. We are actually more likely to identify as LGBTQ2S+ than neurotypical people. So, Pride is important to so many of us. That said, Pride is usually very loud, colorful, and crowded. Most autistic people have sensory issues that make them sensitive to loud sounds, bright colors, smells, and the general busy atmosphere of a Pride parade. So, being in a sensory non-friendly environment for a prolonged time can cause a sensory over-load in an autistic person, which in turn can lead to a melt down and over negative consequences. Thus, sensory-friendly Pride is so important to us. We want to be out and proud like everyone else, we just need a chill environment to do so sometimes.  

Q. How can I be a better ally to Autistic and neurodivergent folks?  

Anna Jackson: As I mentioned before, as neurodivergent people we need acceptance. So, accepting us for who we are is the most important step towards true allyship. Moreover, listen to neurodiverse people. After all, we are the experts at being us. Finally, you can support autistic self-advocacy organizations like Autistics United Canada, instead of supporting organizations that speak for us.

Q. Where can I learn more?! 

Anna Jackson: There are so many great resources out there that are made by neurodivergent people. But a good place to start would probably be Neuroclastic (https://neuroclastic.com/). It is a website that publishes articles by autistic creators discussing various issues in the community.  

Federal Election: How Will our Local Candidates Address Food Insecurity?

In the lead-up to the 2021 Federal election, Gordon Neighbourhood House launched a #WestEndVotes initiative to raise awareness about the election, and encourage eligible neighbours to vote.

Food insecurity is a serious issue in our community, and food justice forms a significant component of our work. Gordon Neighbourhood House is a proud member of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, a Good Food Member of Community Food Centres Canada, and a local organizer with the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network.

Gordon Greens, a mobile produce market program in the West End.

We sent surveys to all confirmed candidates, and asked them questions about important issues affecting our community. Here are their responses regarding poverty and food insecurity.

#WestEndVotes Initiative
Question 5: Food Security
Food insecurity is on the rise and now affects one in seven Canadians. Many families, young adults, and seniors can’t afford food, or worry about running out with no money to buy more. A root cause of food insecurity is poverty. How is your party planning to decrease poverty and food insecurity?

Alaric Paivarinta
, Green Party of Canada
1. Put opportunity back into food production.
2. Encourage farmers to add value to their products through local and direct sales.

Breen Ouellette, The New Democratic Party
In a country as wealthy as Canada, we have no excuse to leave any Canadian in poverty. We need to take bold and meaningful action so that every Canadian has the support they need to live in dignity. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us it is possible for government to act quickly to provide extensive support, including a basic income when Canadians are in desperate need. The NDP will invest in income security programs, starting with seniors and people with disabilities, as a first step toward a future where all Canadians can access a livable basic income.

Access to healthy and affordable food is at the heart of the NDP’s food strategy. The NDP would implement a national school nutrition program to ensure that no child enters the classroom hungry.

Hedy Fry, The Liberal Party of Canada
We plan to help people who can and wish to work by providing training leading to jobs and raising minimum wage to $15. We are expanding housing for low-income people. During COVID we worked with local farmers and agricultural producers to supply food for people and created massive food banks. Much of this food was distributed by community organizers. We have been able to reduce poverty in 900,000 seniors and aim to reduce it to zero. During COVID we gave seniors a one-time top up and are raising OAS for people over 74 which will help seniors with food insecurity. In addition, our government provided $300 million through the emergency food fund to food banks and other organizations to address food insecurity during the pandemic.

Taylor Singleton-Fookes, The People’s Party of Canada
The amount of poverty in a society is indicative of how healthy that societies economy is. Artificial government forces that increase the price of food are wrong and should be ceased immediately. The supply management system imposes a financial burden of $339 annually on the poorest 20%. The carbon tax raises the cost of everything. Money printing and the resulting price inflation impacts the poor most. A healthy economy with lower taxes and less interest group protection will reduce poverty and reduce food insecurity.

Harry Cockell, The Conservative Party of Canada
We did not receive a response from this candidate.

Join the discussion, and share your views using the hashtag #WestEndVotes
Click HERE to meet the candidates running for Vancouver Centre.
Click HERE to return to the West End Votes main page.

This initiative was generously supported by Community Food Centres Canada Election Organizing Grant.

West End Votes—Meet the Candidates

The Canadian federal election will take place on Monday, September 20th, 2021. Five candidates are running to become Vancouver Centre’s representative in the House of Commons of the 44th Canadian Parliament.

We reached out to all confirmed candidates in our riding, and asked them eight questions about their party’s platform and vision for the next four years. Click on the candidates photos below to read their responses.

Click HERE to return to the West End Votes main page.

Different Methods to Vote

No matter which method you choose to vote, you’ll need to prove your identity and address. Keep reading, or visit Elections Canada for the full list of accepted ID.

Option 1: Government-Issued Photo ID
Show one piece of government-issued photo identification that has your name and current address.
Eg. driver’s license, passport, etc.

Option 2: Don’t Have Photo ID?
Show two pieces of identification without your photo. Both pieces must have your name, and at least one piece must have your address.
Eg. birth certificate, debit card, health card, insurance statement, bank statement, library card, etc.
Visit Elections Canada for a list of approved ID for Option 2.

Option 3: Don’t Have Current Identification?
If you don’t have ID, don’t worry you can still vote. You can do this by declaring your identity and address in writing, and have someone who knows you and is assigned to your polling station confirm your identity (called “vouching”).

West End Votes—Candidate Profile: Taylor Singleton-Fookes

Taylor Singleton-Fookes
People’s Party of Canada
(778) 791-7667
No Social Media

Question 1: Housing Affordability 
Approximately 80% of West End residents currently rent their homes. Many neighbours are concerned that rental prices and living expenses are rising exponentially faster than household incomes. What will you do to address rising inequality and housing unaffordability? 
Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
The federal government should be smaller and it should keep out of provincial and municipal jurisdiction. The problem of cost of living stems from two major forces: loose monetary policy and burdensome municipal regulation. The housing market prices are an asset bubble due to too much CDN liquidity looking for safety. The PPC will get the monetary policy of the federal government under control by controlling spending. It is up to the municipality to allow for development of density. If it was allowed, developers would cover Vancouver in density with no need for federal investment. The federal infrastructure projects ran by the Liberals were comically ineffective at getting things built. The reason for this is the overlapping jurisdictions which means nobody is accountable and everyone has someone to blame. Programs like social housing, federal building, buyer assistance, are using public money to buy votes. They transfer wealth to the relatively well (i.e. urban areas, house purchasing citizens). That is not what the federal government should be doing. Housing is a municipal problem, the solution must come from drastic changes to municipal policy and community initiatives like co-ops, not federal government handouts.
See https://www.peoplespartyofcanada.ca/housing

Question 2: Homelessness
What will you do to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness, and prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place?  
Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
The homelessness crisis in Vancouver is an immense and heartbreaking problem. Large amounts of public money are squandered every year with little or no impact on the growing reality. It is simple economic truth that the demand for anything free will be infinite. Public housing cannot solve this problem. The key to solving it is reallocating the resources available to short term trauma care. Vancouver’s trauma centers are fully occupied. They act as social housing overflow. Too often someone fleeing a dangerous situation is stonewalled, put on a waiting list, and ends up on the street. Once on the street, sleep deprivation, drug culture, and despair make getting out of the situation more difficult every day. Also, the city should prioritize zoning for towers with modest, extremely small, single room apartments that are safe, clean, & quiet. These are not social housing, but are inexpensive and would strive to make the first step off the street within reach of most.

Question 3: Opioids
The opioid overdose crisis has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and BC has reported record numbers of opioid-related deaths, emergency calls, and hospitalizations. We can all play a role in supporting those who use substances and have substance use disorders. What will you do to address this national crisis?  

Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
Vancouver politicians have normalized open drug use. Safe injection sites and safe supply are misnomers. There is nothing safe about heroin. The risk of immediate overdose death is much higher with fentanyl than heroin, but long term they are both life destroying, body destroying poisons which cause physical addiction that cannot be easily overcome. Government drug policy needs to be rethought and drug classifications need to be re-accessed to reflect the harm caused by exposure to the substance. Expanding drugs like alcohol, marijuana, psilocybin, & lsd are dangerous, but can be responsibly used. Destructive drugs like cocaine, crack, meth, & heroin are mind and body destroyers that cause dependence. They cannot be responsibly used. We need new drug laws to divide drugs between expanding drugs which should be 100% legal (not medical) and destructive drugs which should be fought with tough criminal prosecution seeking to eliminate all supply and use. Enabling access to life destroying drugs is unconscionable, it is clearly, obviously exacerbating the problem and should be ceased immediately. 

Question 4: Reconciliation
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission 
produced 94 Calls to Action which have become the leading document for revealing the impact of violent colonization of Indigenous lands and peoples, and the pathway to reconciliation for settler societies and all levels of government. Some organizations claim that only 8 of the 94 Calls to Action have been implemented. What concrete plans do you have to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in the next four years? 
Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is another example of the failed paternalistic approach to interaction with Canada’s indigenous population. For example Call to Action #5: We call upon the [government] to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families. Do aboriginal families really need the government to tell them what is culturally appropriate? The 94 Calls to Actions are by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats as they spend $21 000 million every year and produce no tangible improvement in the lives of those who are struggling. We must end the federal programs that seek to control most aspects of indigenous lives. We must allow property ownership and stop perpetuating race based segregation. Aboriginal communities must embrace more individual freedom and take more responsibility. Government support may be well meaning, but it is ultimately destructive.

Question 5: Food Security
Food insecurity is on the rise and now affects one in seven Canadians. Many families, young adults, and seniors can’t afford food, or worry about running out with no money to buy more. A root cause of food insecurity is poverty. How is your party planning to decrease poverty and food insecurity?

Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
The amount of poverty in a society is indicative of how healthy that societies economy is. Artificial government forces that increase the price of food are wrong and should be ceased immediately. The supply management system imposes a financial burden of $339 annually on the poorest 20%. The carbon tax raises the cost of everything. Money printing and the resulting price inflation impacts the poor most. A healthy economy with lower taxes and less interest group protection will reduce poverty and reduce food insecurity.

Question 6: Climate Change
This Summer, Vancouver experienced the hottest temperatures on record. Many political parties have committed to long-term plans and solutions. What will you do in the next four years to confront climate change? 

Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
The world’s climate has always changed and will continue to change. Until twelve thousand years ago, much of Canada was under ice, and it is thanks to natural climate change that we can live here today. There is no scientific consensus on the theory that CO2 produced by human activity is causing dangerous global warming. Climate change alarmism is based on flawed models that have consistently failed at correctly predicting the future. CO2 is not a pollutant. It is an essential ingredient for life on Earth and needed for plant growth.

Question 7: Health Care
Many neighbours are concerned about the underfunding of mental health services in comparison to physical health. What will you do to ensure all Canadians—regardless of income—can access the complete care they need?

Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
I have much doubt about the ability of government programs, no matter how well funded, to assist in the mental health of Canadians. Mental health is a complex reality. It includes how do you perceive yourself? You do you perceive the world around you? How do you relate to the people around you? These answers are unique to you, unique to the community around you, and unique to the time of your life. Government cannot help with these profoundly personal issues of understanding, meaning and value. We must seek to live authentically, to find support in the community around us, to find joy in the toil of existence. Life is full of suffering, pain, loss and death. The medical establishment can only deaden our senses and categorize our suffering. Mental health is having the bravery to face life with courage and having the strength to be there for the ones you love. It is folly to look to the government for such a need.

Question 8: What is your favorite place on the downtown peninsula, and why?
Taylor Singleton-Fookes:
Third beach because swimming under the setting sun is magnificent.

End of Questions.
Join the discussion, and share your views. #WestEndVotes