Jeremy Kalicum and Eris Nyx are a study in contrast: Jeremy is a rather ‘straight-laced’, clean-cut looking, CIS male; a biology/chemistry university graduate: “He looks like he could be your son’s best friend at college!”, Eris quips. Eris is a heavily tattooed, punk rock-looking, proud trans woman.
They are the co-founders of The Drug Users Liberation Front (DULF). Their Facebook Page states the genesis of the organisation :
“Formed in response to the ever-mounting overdose deaths in British Columbia and across Canada, the Drug User Liberation Front looks to provide tangible solutions to this devastating crisis. We are an organized collective of people who use drugs empowered to make change through direct action, courage and conviction, and fueled by the memories of the countless friends, families, and loved ones whose lives have been taken by an unjust, broken system of laws and policies”.
The name and symbols DULF use provides insight into the credo the pair follow: simple grassroots direct action. Their hastily hand-drawn logo, of “DULF” encircled by flames, suggests they want to be at the centre of something volatile and explosive…and they do. They figuratively want to burn down the prevailing system that stigmatizes and kills drug users, replacing it with a more caring and compassionate model.
Compassion is a recurring emotion that is at the heart of DULF. Jeremy and Eris feel that governments have abandoned drug users, and are complicit in the deaths of People Who Use Drugs, due to their continued blocking of a safer supply. They believe that regulating the drug market through community-led “Compassion Clubs” is the most accessible way of providing immediate relief and meaningful support to People Who Use Drugs. “We’re just sick of seeing our friends dying” Kalicum stated.
Compassionate Drug Supply (CDS) has its roots in Canadian “Compassion Clubs”, originally formed by terminally ill people to access cannabis for pain relief before it was legal. Jeremy and Eris have taken the concept of CDS and applied it within their Community in Vancouver. They advocate, and have out of necessity, provided clearly labelled (including warnings) substances with verified levels of purity to People Who Use Drugs. Ultimately, the DULF Compassion Club Model aims to move the use of drugs outside of police-orientated and medicalized spheres to address it from a social standpoint.
How could a CDS be established in Australia? As seen with other Drug Using related initiatives, including NSPs and Consumption Rooms, Kalicum believes that grassroots activism paired with civil disobedience is a necessary ingredient. "History has shown that moving these initiatives forward often takes some form of civil disobedience from community groups." The plural in Community Groups cannot be stressed enough. Collaboration with a broad spectrum of people who are significantly impacted by the shortcomings of the current system invites Unity in purpose from diverse aspects of the Community. For DULF, this was achieved by teaming up with other activists, such as Moms Stop the Harm, a grassroots organisation made up of mothers who had children die from overdose.
Why do we need to implement Compassionate Supply? Jeremy and Eris provide us with five main reasons: The volatility in the quality of illegal drugs is the predominant component that kills people; Providing drug users with non-toxic drugs lowers the death rate; Barriers to accessing safe drugs cause people to turn back to risky street drugs; Prohibition doesn’t work, and the Compassionate Supply model is saving lives right now and will continue to do so.
On a final note, Eris and Jeremy are both excited and relieved that the Trudeau government has pushed ahead with providing funding to expand “Safe Supply” pilot projects, one of which they will be involved in implementing.
Eris and Jeremy are the Keynote Speakers at the upcoming AIVL STIGMA conference on 17th November, Parliament House Great Hall, Canberra.
Charlie Lay - Project Officer, AIVL.
AIVL is the national organisation representing people who use/have used illicit drugs and is the peak body for the state and territory peer-based drug user organisations.
Jake Docker, CEO, AIVL – email firstname.lastname@example.org