For almost twenty years Bud Osborn has been the unofficial archivist of Canada's poorest neighbourhood.

"We have become a community of prophets,"; writes the Downtown Eastside poet, "rebuking the system and speaking hope and possibility into situations of apparent impossibility.";

Along with City of Vancouver's Drug Policy Coordinator Donald MacPherson and UVic academic Susan Boyd-who lost her sister Diana to a drug overdose-Osborn has documented the social justice movement that culminated in the opening of North America's first supervised drug injection site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES).

As a landmark celebration of collective activism and resistance, the trio's impolitely-titled Raise Shit! Social Action Saving Lives (Fernwood $26.95) is a sophisticated history of despair and courage, commitment and change.

It is also an important contribution to the serious literature on drug prohibition and an inspiring story of how marginalized citizens have refused to let their friends' deaths be rendered invisible.

"Our story is unique,"; say the trio. "It is told from the vantage point of drug users, those most affected by drug policy.";

At its outset, this montage of photos, news stories, poems by Osborn, MP Libby Davies' letters and journal entries does not fail to note: "From the early 1980s, poor women, many Aboriginal, associated with the DTES, went missing. Twenty years passed before one man was charged with the murders of 26 of the missing women; however, later he was convicted of six counts of second degree murder. The investigation is ongoing, and poor women remain vulnerable to male violence.";

The DTES made headlines around the world in 1977 when a public health emergency was declared in response to the growing rates of HIV, hepatitis C and overdose deaths among drug users in the area.

The last time we checked, raising hell was not an official Olympic event, so as 2010 draws nearer, it will be interesting to watch how critical DTES voices will be raised.

Earlier this year anti-Olympics author Chris Shaw was hassled by the RCMP, requesting information of protest plans.


Raise Shit! Social Action Saving Lives (Fernwood $26.95) co-authored with Bud Osborn and Susan Boyd. 978-1-5526-6327-1

More Harm Than Good (Fernwood 2016) co-authored with Susan Boyd and Connie Carter.

[BCBW 2017]