Illicit projects began as a community-led arts initiative to voice the impact of the forced closure of the drug resource center in Vancouvers Downtown Eastside.
With Illicit, we aim to illuminate our stories and amplify our voices as people who have made DURC what it is: a place of meaning, belonging, and hope. Our intent is to imaginatively explore harm reduction, drug policy, and the realities of life on the margins through art forms such as writing, movement, music, theatre, and visual art. Our goal is to create a compelling work of performance art that will affirm our community’s vision while viscerally and emotionally drawing the wider public into our world.
All of our coalition members are having lived experience in a multitude of high-risk living situations and experiences. Such as residential school survivors, child abuse, survival sex work, drug dealing and chronic homelessness.
Bringing ideas to the table for the group to create a cohesive ,and engaging performance where each person draws on their personal experience to creativity to develop a character through a collaborative process
Throughout the years our coalition members have overcome much of the trauma the endured thanks thank to the platform Illicit has provided them.
Illicit is a community-engaged arts-based research project with members, leaders, and staff of the PHS Community Services Society’s Drug User’s Resource Centre, or DURC. DURC is a cutting-edge, peer-run centre in Vancouver dedicated to the rights of people who use illicit drugs and alcohol. It is a vibrant hub of arts, cultural, and user-specific programming built by and for the people in this community.
Those with and without lived experiences of drug use
Overdose Response Work
- Performances have raised awareness for audiences outside of the neighbourhood. To reduce stigma by educating non-drug users, education and knowledge building and building agency. All which help to reduce accidental overdose deaths within our community
The Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council (MVAEC) was founded in 2008 to respond to the urban Aboriginal community’s desire for a more collaborative, strategic, and unified voice across Metro Vancouver. MVAEC was incorporated as a society in 2009 and currently includes 22 diverse Aboriginal non-profit organizations operating throughout Metro Vancouver. Alongside these organizations, MVAEC works to positively influence outcomes for the urban Aboriginal community through strategic planning, community engagement, and advocacy on issues of collective concern to its members. MVAEC will leverage these strong connections to a wide variety of community-based organizations to ensure that the community plan is truly representative of the needs and capacities of the Metro Vancouver community
Indigenous people, people living in the DTES, Indigenous people who are homeless.
Overdose Response Work
- Supporting Indigenous lead initiatives in the DTES
- Facilitating a forum for culture and ceremony
- Involving Indigenous peers and Elders
Vancouver Community Coalition Against Prohibition and Overdose (VanCCAPO)
The Vancouver Community Coalition Against Prohibition and Overdose (VAN CCAPO) was a collaboration between the Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War (CPDDW), the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS), the Tenant Overdose Response Organizers
(TORO), and the DUDES Club. It was made up of justice seeking community members of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) and consisted of the grassroots peer leaders of the present, and the future. Although the coalition is currently unfunded and therefore inactive, its constituent membership continues to resist and fight back against the drug war and colonization, and to work together to create a vibrant, safe, and beautiful community in Vancouver’s DTES by keeping each other safe, housed, and alive. The membership of our coalition continues fighting for a safe supply of all drugs, for safer spaces for marginalized people, for our rights, for ending the war on drugs, and for the end of 400 years of colonization. To this end, despite our current lack of funding, we continue to collaborate informally in order to put grassroots organizations front and centre in the overdose prevention movement and to focus on continued clear intergroup communication, including building a strong community response to the ongoing crisis of prohibition based on self-directed and autonomous community organizing and solidarity.
Van CCAPO made all its decisions at a drug user led, monthly steering committee, which occurred in person at a central location in the DTES. All decisions were made with one hundred percent consensus by all of the groups’ representatives present. Decisions or issues that were contentious were discussed in person until resolved.
People who use drugs.
- DUDES Club:
Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel tenants.
Indigenous people who use drugs..
Overdose Response Work
- Direct outreach to, and advocacy alongside, people who use drugs, including education.
- Storytelling and narrative production; this includes releasing resources for people who use drugs on how to survive the current genocide against them, and information that combats the current medical narrative that safe supply must be institutionalized.
- Drug user capacity building, resource development, and interagency collaboration; this includes best practice policy development and ongoing expansion and moderation of a peer-to-peer education curriculum.
- The production of research and information dissemination to the community as warranted and requested.
We began responding to the overdose crisis in 2018 with our partner agency the Aboriginal Front Door as the deaths mounted and kept climbing. We met and engaged with other agencies doing similar work in the DTES like Culture Saves Lives and WAHRS and then met more through the CAI network. We have learned more and more from every agency we worked with and are proud to be part of such a committed and devoted network of frontline heroes. The peer workers are the most dedicated and knowledgeable and compassionate and resilient people in the world. They survived the reality and now do what they can to help others survive.
Each agency makes their own decisions but we keep the lines of communication open and meet when needed to coordinate our plans and also to share resources to be most effective.
Most of our staff have lived experience. All of our peers have lived experience. We have scheduled meetings to discuss issues occasionally but mostly they are impromptu or hastily organized meetings to respond to urgent matters or crises that may arise. Occasionally we may be able to get together at a fun community event like Family Night at Strathcona or National Indigenous Peoples Day and share some good times.
- Urban Indigenous in DTES Vancouver
Overdose Response Work
- Frontline engagement with urban Indigenous community in DTES
- Cultural approach to health of the whole person and community connections
- Cultural approach to inter-generational trauma, the root cause of substance use
- Re-connecting people to community and culture