Tyson Singh: They are truly “little bitches” in the face of 14,000 lives lost (and Adam Zivo is lingering outside schools now?!)

Man leaning on a wall reading a newspaper by Pixabay

Oh no! Adam Zivo found another monster under his bed – this time it’s the scary “radical harm reductionists.” 

It’s true, the National Post columnist obtained recordings of meetings where a group of us tried to plan a big, terrifying event. The event in question was planned in response to the right wing-private treatment and recovery PROSPER conference. Our event was set to feature bereaved mothers, armed with critical questions to ask PROSPER speakers if it felt appropriate, alongside an outdoor press conference to address media and the public. To symbolize people dying from policies pushed by those at the conference, we discussed drawing chalk outlines and putting temporary red dye in an outdoor water fountain. We collectively decided not to complete the latter. 

Zivo put up a series of posts on X, including one where he seems to name me as a radical harm reductionist. (Hi Adam, putting our names into your creepy spreadsheet doesn’t make us your friends!). 

It is difficult to decide if a recording of open Zoom meetings is the better “BIG SCOOP” than the time he re-published a press release with similar energy…Dear reader, you can decide.

Zivo, however, did report on one comment accurately. A friend of mine rightly stated that if BC United and Conservative Party leaders were going to whine about chalk on concrete in the face of a eight-year long public health emergency, which has taken thousands of people’s lives, they would look like “little bitches.” 

There is no equivalence to be drawn between the violence of the toxic drug crisis and being called out verbally for cowardice.

But in their panic, rather than crying wolf about chalk figures, PROSPER organizers made a much bigger move: they changed the city of their event from downtown Vancouver to the Richmond Airport, and banned the mothers from even entering to watch the event they paid for, something BC United leader Kevin Falcon later told the media was a reasonable reaction

Little bitches for sure. So who are these panic-stricken political actors?

Falcon, who has yet to answer for corruption allegations that clients at a treatment site were coerced into phone banking for his failed leadership campaign against Christy Clark in 2011. (He is party leader now as his BC United party crumbles in the polls).

John Rustad, an MLA booted from BC United by Falcon for dying on a hill of climate change denial, is not-so-subtly trying to re-open the conversation on abortion rights, and now leads the BC Conservatives.

Julian Somers, who blocked me while I was still his student, shortly after I asked that he stop whining via the Simon Fraser University Faculty of Health Sciences email list about various “attacks,” and instead consider the feedback and critique he is receiving about his behaviour. Many others have expressed concern about his unprofessional conduct as a professor. 

Collen Middleton, who directs a nonprofit alongside Somers, and admitted to collecting people’s garbage outside of a pharmacy for months, spoke on a panel.

Kevin Sabet, a drug war profiteer who advised three different US presidents and has driven campaigns against stopping the criminalization of cannabis production, procurement and retail.

Brad West, who not only collaborated with Aaron Gunn on a Youtube video to rail against immigration, also seems as unwilling to tell the truth about Bill 34 (public consumption legislation currently facing a Charter challenge) as Zivo.

And who else would give favourable coverage to this free enterprise-private healthcare alliance than Zivo himself? 

On disturbances and reasonable conversations about drugs, these days it seems Zivo is lingering outside of schools to ask youth questions about the drug supply he barely seems to understand himself.

The Mainlander obtained a 10-minute recording of Zivo conducting interviews outside a Nanaimo school. According to a direct message also obtained by The Mainlander, Zivo conducted this meeting outside Wellington Secondary on his seemingly obsessive quest to derive attention from his critique of prescribed safe supply programs.

In the recording, the students deny being able to confirm that the drug supply some of their peers use are tied to any safe supply program. However, Zivo continues to manufacture panic about these small public health interventions, despite a rise in counterfeit dilaudid pills alongside his counterfeit opinion pieces.

Zivo did not seem to mind sending the youth’s voices to an uninvolved party. Notably, this group interview was seemingly conducted at a school in the riding where the co-director of Zivo’s nonprofit is running for Pierre Pollievre’s Conservative Party of Canada in the next federal election. In one message obtained by The Mainlander, Zivo claims to have done similar activities at approximately five schools. While not legally binding, the Canadian Association of Journalists’ ethical guidelines include providing clarity about possible consequences when interviewing minors.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre on the campaign trail with Andrew Scheer (Public domain)

As reported in The Mainlander, the National Post recently posted a correction to a Zivo column after settling with Byron Wood on Wood’s complaint to the National Media Council. Others, including Petra Schulz, a co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, have asked the National Post to be cautious about platforming Zivo’s work after he repeatedly posted the neighbourhood where a survivor of domestic abuse lives, even after being asked to stop due to fears of backlash from the perpetrator. As of April, Schulz stated she had not yet heard back. A group of people who use safe consumption services in Toronto also raised concerns about Zivo’s reporting methods.

Being called a radical by Zivo and the other grifters who look to capitalize off a public health emergency, and benefit from the deaths of our relatives and people in our communities, could not be a higher compliment. I want to contribute to building a world that is radically different from the one these profiteers self-indulgently benefit from – and envision extracting more for themselves from, regardless of the harm and pain they generate. 

The real issue is that nearly 15,000 people in BC have died since April 2016, and countless others have faced serious harm from policy decisions made to ensure the supply remains toxic and unpredictable under status quo drug laws. Hundreds of thousands of people in BC remain at risk of dying, as supply-side intervention is at a standstill, with existing narrow programs decreasing in size. The real issue is that thousands of people a year face carceral consequences, including incarceration itself, due in part to drug prohibition. But those who profit from these violent issues love a distraction from solving them.

What actually occurred at the press conference held outside the location abandoned by PROSPER out of the same panic and fear that seems to drive this vein of politics, was that Patrick and Lorna, members of the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society, opened and closed the event in tribute to the people we have lost and a moment of silence. Vince brought attention to the fact that treatment and recovery services are unregulated and profit-driven emulations of healthcare, whose owners are systemically opposed to our multi-layered housing and overdose crises being resolved. Byron, from Workers for Ethical Substance Use Policy, discussed the need for less punitive workplace drug policies, which drive people toward unemployment and income insecurity. Scotty, from the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, shared personal experiences of recovery and discussed how safe supply programs can help give people a chance to live. Mona, from the Surrey Union of Drug Users, brought light to the settler colonial underpinnings of Bill 34, before she sang the Women’s Warrior song. No one in attendance could help but sing along until the end, knowing that a better world is possible if we work to create it together.

Photo by Atahan Demir