The Week – February 10

AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) is suffering a little heat from media after jumping on board with a U.K. campaign that’s doing it’s damndest to raise awareness around drug stigmas.

AVI has joined forces to battle stigmas, too

Stigmas not nice

AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) is suffering a little heat from media after jumping on board with a U.K. campaign that’s doing it’s damndest to raise awareness around drug stigmas.

The campaign, which uses the slogan “Nice people take drugs,” was removed from buses in the U.K. but has taken off with success in Victoria. This week, AVI even hung a banner from their office window. “The media plays a huge role in how we perceived drug users, and even the way this campaign has been covered so far has been from the perspective that this is something really controversial,” says Andrea Langlois, AVI’s manager of communications and community relations and research. “What the statistics are showing us is that drug use is much more common that we typically think.”

AVI is using the campaign to join forces with Harm Reduction Victoria (HRV) and other organizations around Victoria during Anti-Stigma Week, which runs until Feb. 14.

According to Health Canada’s 2009 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Using Survey, 48.6 per cent of people living in B.C. report having used illegal drugs in their lifetime. Of these, 47.5 per cent say they’ve used cannabis, while 20.4 per cent have used cocaine/crack, speed, ecstasy, hallucinogens, or heroin. “The real point of this campaign is to get people realizing that drug use does not only happen on the street level, and does not make users ‘bad people,’” Langlois says. “The more we get that discussion going, and the more we knock the stigma out of it, we’ve found the more people will come forward to get the help they need, not fearing judgement from others.”

And speaking of breaking down stigmas, HRV and the Society of Living Intravenous Drug Users (S.O.L.I.D.) are hosting Victoria’s first “Vigil and Procession for the Victims and Survivors of the War on Drugs.” The vigil will take place Friday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. in Centennial Square. Candles will be provided.

Smashing truth

The Green Party of Canada faced some hard-hitting news this past week, when a truck crashed into Elizabeth May’s Saanich constituency office on Tattersall and Quadra. “It wasn’t exactly the call I wanted to get at midnight on a Saturday night, but it’s more of a complication than anything else,” says May’s campaign manager Jonathan Dickie.

A similar accident did occur at the office next door to the campaign headquarters last fall, but Dickie says surrounding residents have not seen anything this dramatic before. There were 106 crashes at the Quadra-Tattersall intersection from 2005 to 2009, according to ICBC, but the intersection is still not considered high risk.

No one was hurt in the accident, though the 17-year-old driver will be charged with driving without due care and attention.

Dickie says he doesn’t believe the accident was in any way malicious — though he jokes that it would be an interesting campaign tactic. Most of the damages will be covered by the building owner, while the Greens looks at finding another space. “It’s an unfortunate inconvenience more than anything, especially if we’re looking at a spring election. We liked the space there, and there was a lot of density in that part of the riding, so we’ll likely set up shop somewhere close by.”

Luckily, the Green’s Sidney office is not situated beside any major intersections.

Tick tock, transit

Turns out BC Transit is having trouble telling time, according to one Monday reader.

Victoria resident Leszek Richmond, 49, called in last week to speak of a logistical problem he’s been having with BC Transit’s late-night bus scheduling: while multiple bus routes now offer after-midnight services, the times are listed on the wrong day.

The situation arose when Richmond had a friend coming in from out of town who tried to use the route 6 Royal Oak bus. Richmond’s friend was waiting for the Friday 12:19 a.m. bus, then the 12:49 a.m., then the 1:20 a.m. The problem? He had arrived on Thursday night and thought the Friday service times were indicated for that morning. “It’s very frustrating to people when it’s clearly written Friday, 12:19 a.m., but you really mean Saturday, 12:19 a.m.,” says Richmond. “Tourists, and anyone who can tell time would be confused. This is a mess and it should be fixed.”

Richmond called to complain to BC Transit, but says the official he spoke with laughed at him and told him nothing would be done. “We feel it’s unfortunate that this rider experienced difficulty with the service,” says Joanna Linsagan, communications manager for BC Transit. “We believe we’ve clearly stated the route is for the end of the evening on those given days, and we intend on keeping it that way.”

Linsagan says she has not heard of any other complaints on this matter, though she believes that changing the system would confuse other riders at this point. When asked about the logistical error, Linsagan responded “the majority of users fully understand the current system and experience no trouble.”

Linsagan says BC Transit is looking into the behaviour of the operator who took Richmond’s call, and insists that all customer feedback is taken seriously.

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